December 17, 2003

SOUTH AFRICA: Mbeki urges to work for non-racial goals

President Thabo Mbeki challenged South Africans to work harder towards establishing a united and non-racial society. He said that South Africa was still characterised by race, poverty and indifference about the sacrifices made by liberation heroes. Addressing thousands gathered at the Union Buildings to celebrate Reconciliation Day, Mbeki said it was important that South Africa recognised and honoured the heroes of the struggle against apartheid "to whom we owe the new South Africa being born". It was unfortunate that many citizens knew so little about heroes such as Albert Luthuli, Walter Sisulu and others.

Mbeki said a new venture, Freedom Park, which will be constructed on a hill near Voortrekkerhoogte in Pretoria, should be a reminder of South Africa's sordid past, forge unity and reflect the nation's vision for unity in diversity. The president furthermore signed a declaration on nation building and reconciliation with representatives of interest groups, including the disabled, traditional leaders, women, the youth and labour.

Mbeki revealed while progress was achieved in nation building and in reversing the frontiers of poverty, South Africans remained a divided society not yet able to shed its racist past. Much still remained to be done to enhance and strengthen reconciliation. "Not all of us have joined in the ownership of the vision of national unity. We should together join in the people's contract of reconciliation and reconstruction," Mbeki urged. Other challenges such as racism, sexism, violence against women and children, joblessness and homelessness remained a stark reality facing the nation. Mbeki moreover stated that an important part of deepening and strengthening democracy was the holding of free and fair elections. It was therefore essential all South Africans voted next year.

During the celebration, Arts and Culture Minister Ben Ngubane also encouraged the South African Broadcasting Corporation to use indigenous language radio stations to explain the vision and the significance of Freedom Park. The minister held that it was important that rural communities which had access to radio more than other forms of media understood the process and that they did not feel left out of programmes aimed at enhancing unity and reconciliation. (Business Day, Johannesburg)


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