South Africans should wipe away the tears, says Zuma

2011-12-16 10:31

President Jacob Zuma has called on South Africans to participate in nation building by “wiping away the tears and covering the wounds” of a painful past.

Addressing the Day of Reconciliation celebrations at Freedom Park on Salvokop Hill in Pretoria, Zuma quoted excerpts of the Constitution to emphasise forgiveness, reconciliation and nation building.

Earlier in the day, Zuma and Rudolph Botha, the chairperson of the Voortrekker Monument board, cut a ribbon to mark the official opening of a road linking the Voortrekker Monument, a symbol of Afrikaner history which was opened by the then apartheid government under prime minister DF Malan in 1949, and Freedom Park, opened by former president Thabo Mbeki in 2007.

Zuma announced that the two historical sites have signed a memorandum of understanding as a symbol of “goodwill, reconciliation, social cohesion and nation building”.

He said the gesture indicated progress in the country’s reconciliation project.

“Reconciliation will succeed if it is a two-way process,” said Zuma, adding that South Africa was making progress in realising this goal.

For democracy and reconciliation to work, the judiciary, the executive and the legislature had a responsibility to work together on nation building “regardless of the autonomous and independent roles we play and the differences we may have in the implementation of our respective programmes,” said Zuma.

He said the establishment of the department of military veterans within the Department of Defence would ensure that government improved the lives of combatants of former liberation movements, including the defunct Apla and the uMkhonto weSizwe, which celebrates its 50th anniversary today.

He pointed to yesterday’s opening of the Gallows Museum in Pretoria as another milestone on the road to reconciliation. More than 134 political activists were executed here during apartheid and more than 4 000 “common law” criminals.

It was important to prioritise basic services for the “black” majority who suffered “profoundly” under apartheid, said Zuma.

“The more we invest in education and skills development the more we will reverse the legacy of apartheid and colonial oppression, and we will be closing the societal gap that was created,” said Zuma.

He reiterated that government was still focused on its priorities of fighting crime and corruption, job creation, education, health, and rural development to reverse the legacy of apartheid.

It was everyone’s responsibility including business, unions, religious bodies and all communities, black and white, to uplift communities and develop the country’s economy, said Zuma.

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