‘Freedom Day belongs to all’

2010-04-28 00:00

KWAZULU-NATAL Premier Dr Zweli Mkhize appealed to people of all races to participate in government-organised commemorative events like Freedom Day “because these celebrations belong to all of us”.

Mkhize was addressing the provincial 16th Freedom Day celebration at Richards Bay Sports Centre yesterday.

Whites, Indians and coloureds are conspicuous by their absence from government events to celebrate historic commemorative days like the Freedom Day, National Youth Day and Human Rights Day.

Although yesterday’s event was organised in a way that aimed to accommodate all races, few whites, Indians or coloureds were present. The few who did attend were either dignitaries, relatives of those who were participating in multicultural events or officials.

Mkhize said, “What we saw today, this combination of ‘multi-cultures’, is part of this new nation that was born 16 years ago.

“We need to create an environment that makes everyone feel that they are welcome. These celebrations are not for a certain race group, but belong to all of us. We have to be proud that we are a united nation.

“Under the apartheid regime, communities were segregated socially, but now we have a democratic and a prosperous country which belongs to all who live in it. However, the biggest threat to our freedom is the inabilithy to see the value of diversity.

“Under the new administration we have ensured that as part of heritage month … all the people of KwaZulu-Natal from all races come together to celebrate. We believe such celebrations will go a long way towards healing the nation.”

The premier said leaders of all races had displayed pragmatism and worked as a collective for the liberation of all South Africans.

He took the opportunity to emphasise the government’s opposition to fraud and corruption.

“The government is building an ethical infrastructure that promotes professional ethics. We call on members of the public to participate in the fight against fraud and corruption.

“We have joined hands with the South African Police Force and other organisations within the forensic fraternity to identify and investigate a variety of fraud and corruption activities involving provincial departments and other entities that serve as the agents of specific departments such as municipalities.

“Where there is evidence of fraud, corruption and maladministration, the government will act, and those who are found guilty will not escape by simply handing in their resignation letters. People will be arrested.

“Government has no place for corrupt civil servants whose sole interests are to enrich themselves at the expense of our people who need basic services.”

Mkhize called on South Africans to be vigilant in the protection of the freedom for which they had fought so hard by combating crime and diseases like HIV and Aids.

“The drastic step that the president of the country, Jacob Zuma, has taken over the past few days will undoubtedly bolster our efforts that are aimed at fighting this pandemic.

In line with [the president’s public disclosure of his HIV-negative status] we are calling the people of this province to undergo voluntary counselling and testing.

“What is the use of our freedom if we cannot enjoy it because people are dying as a result of diseases like Aids? Life expectancy in South Africa at around 50 years is lower than in most countries. These figures don’t belong to a free country like ours,” he said.

Before delivering his speech, Mkhize called for a moment of silence in memory of the 16 people who died during a taxi accident in uMzinto on the south coast on Monday morning.

The accident, he said, “is an indication of how badly things can go on our roads, and the responsibility is upon each and every one of us to use our roads responsibly and with respect for the law”.

The celebration was also attended by provincial MECs, Speaker Neliswa Nkonyeni, national members of parliament and the State Security Minister, Dr Siyabonga Cwele.

Before the start of the proceedings, the premier and the VIPs paraded through the town with groups of multi-cultural performers and motor bike riders.

They were led by a colourful multiracial group of 16-year-olds who were carrying flags belonging to all the 32 countries that will participate in the Fifa World Cup tournament kicking off on June 11 at Soccer City.

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