December 17, 2004

Look beyond hatred to celebrate South Africa's success

While preoccupied with what still remained to be done to restore the dignity of all communities, South Africans were failing to appreciate the level of reconciliation achieved in the past 10 years, President Thabo Mbeki has stated. Admitting that millions of South Africans still remained poor and "languishing in the corners of society", Mbeki lauded reconciliatory initiatives undertaken so far by all racial groups. "We speak only of what we have as yet failed to achieve and therefore beat our drums loudly to draw attention to the ugly remnants of the legacy we inherited," he said at the Freedom Park in Pretoria. Mbeki said that in the past was observed as the Day of the Covenant to celebrate the conflicts in terms of "victors and the vanquished", had been turned into a public holiday focusing on reconciliation "among those who had been enemies". "We sought to emphasise that among us there are no victors and the vanquished, and that the triumph of a nonracial and nonsexist democracy in our country constitutes an historic victory that belongs to all of us, regardless of who fought on which side," he said.
The day now symbolised an acceptance of South Africa's recommitment to the goals of "national unity and reconciliation and a common patriotism" as reflected in the constitution's preamble, he said. According to Mbeki, the creation of the Freedom Park was in part a response to the recommendations of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission to be a symbol of victory of peace over war. Rather than establishing a process of retribution directed at settling old scores, the park was a pledge by South Africa that it would "not allow past hatreds and enmities to determine" its future. It was a shrine that will constantly remind all future generations of their obligation to forever avoid the depraved deeds that occurred in the country because of human folly and greed, Mbeki said. (Business Day, Johannesburg)

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