Two months ago, Main Street buzzed with army tanks, stray bullets and terror. But on Wednesday, hundreds of the township's children marched to celebrate peace in South Africa.
"Today, I'm not scared to march," said 11-year-old Ann Makwela. "Two months ago, I was afraid. But today, even though people are still being killed, it's not so bad."Teacher Jane Nkosi said that before the nation's first all-race elections in April, they never thought they would have cause to celebrate peace along with U.N. International Children's Day on Wednesday.
"We could never imagine participating in this type of celebration," said Nkosi. "We were always hiding under the beds because of shooting, and the children couldn't absorb anything in school."
The black community just outside Johannesburg had been a battleground in the power struggle between the African National Congress and its main black rival, the Inkatha Freedom Party.
The fighting died down after Inkatha called off its boycott of the elections. And since the April 26-29 vote, Tokoza and much of the rest of the country has savored the lull in violence.
Surrounded by squatter camps, Tokoza is one of the poorest townships in the Johannesburg area. Its schools are tattered, raw sewage flows in the gutters and the unemployment rate is more than 80 percent.
President Nelson Mandela has promised jobs, homes and better education for black South Africans, whose needs were neglected by white-minority governments.
Dr. Margaret Mojapelo, a community leader who organized the march, would like South Africa's first black president to ensure that children can go to school without fear of violence.
"Other than living as black children who already lead disadvantaged lives in the townships, many of these children have had to deal with everyday violence, often surviving massacres themselves," Mojapelo said.
"I want the killing to stop and I want Mandela to really make a better life for all," said young Ann.