It's about unity, say African New Zealanders

From Voices, 3:30 pm on 17 July 2017

“Now we’re getting near an election, it’s really important that we understand we are all New Zealanders, regardless (of) where we’ve come from.” Race Relations Commissioner Dame Susan Devoy

The aroma of Ethiopian goat stew and the sound of traditional drumming greet the public on arrival at the fourth Africa Day celebrations, held in Shed 6 on Wellington’s waterfront. Africa has 54 sovereign countries – the most of any continent – and with many of them represented here, it’s a chance to celebrate.

But with an election coming up, it’s also a time to find what’s on the mind of some our fastest growing ethnic communities.

Immigration can be a tricky subject for our ethnic communities. Does being visibly different always have an impact on acceptance? How will our migrant communities be voting?

Originally from the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Sam Manzanza is the key driver behind the celebrations. and has lived in New Zealand for more than 30 years. Sam says it’s about overcoming differences for a common good.

“It’s about unity, for all the nationalities, because New Zealand becomes our new country – everybody lives here, we become one. Unity makes us strong.”

Standing with Sam is Race Relations Commissioner Dame Susan Devoy. She agrees with Sam on the question of unity and calls on Kiwis to pull together.

“Stop the debates that are occurring and blaming migrants for everything.”

One election hot topic may be the state of policing in the country. The changing face of our police force is one indication of rapidly changing demographics.  At the recruitment stall, I meet two New Zealand police officers with African heritage.

Constable Ethan Morta, who is in his twenties, tells me he was born in South Africa and grew up in Botswana. He’s been living here since 1999 and joined the New Zealand Police four years ago. “We are here to support our community, especially those from home.”

“We’ve all come from different struggles, “ agrees Constable Victor Marine, “but the struggles have made us who we are.”

He believes the police should be looking to recruit within New Zealand’s pan-African communities to ensure they have a voice within law enforcement.

Ghanaian Moses Ariama runs the activities at the festival. He’s an entrepreneur who migrated to New Zealand in 1994.

Moses loves working with children which is why he’s running Pride Lands, a before and after school care programme across Wellington. He says he is absolutely comfortable calling himself a New Zealander with two homes, and in doing so, sharing his cultural heritage.

"My children were born here. New Zealand is my second home.”