South Africans across the country are marking Reconciliation Day under the theme ‘Bridging the Divide towards a Non-racial Society’.
Reconciliation Day, which is observed annually on 16 December, was inaugurated in 1995 to help South Africans heal from the horror of the events of the past and to signal the promise of a shared future, regardless of race, culture or creed.
While the journey to reconciliation continues, South Africans must remember that it is a two-way process.
“While black people are implored to come to bury the pain of the past and move on, white compatriots should also be ready to accept and support the imperative of transformation and redress,” President Jacob Zuma said on Friday.
He was addressing the 2016 Reconciliation Day celebrations at Black Aces Sports Ground in Gopane, outside Zeerust, in the North West.
“The implementation of measures to deracialise the economy, such as Black Economic Empowerment, Affirmative Action and land reform remain critical for us to achieve true and meaningful reconciliation,” the President said.
He called on South Africans to drive these programmes together to rebuild the country.
“We should thus not regard reconciliation as an easy matter. It is profound and requires a lot of work by all of us. Today we must all recommit ourselves to walking this important journey together,” the President said, adding that this in the best interest of the country and generations to come.
Besides deracialising the economy and land reform, President Zuma said there was also the need to assist families that were directly affected by apartheid atrocities and those who lost their loved ones in order to ensure that they find closure and healing.
The programme of finding missing persons and handing over the remains of former political prisoners, who were executed by the apartheid government, to their families also continues.
At least 130 political prisoners were hanged for politically-related offences in the period between 1960 and 1990.
The State retained custody of the remains of the deceased, thereby denying their families the opportunity to receive or bury them.
Of the 130 hanged political prisoners, 47 have already been exhumed by other parties, groups or individuals.
The democratic government launched the Gallows Exhumation Project on 23 March 2016 at Kgosi Mampuru Correctional Centre in Pretoria to begin the exhumation of the mortal remains of 83 political prisoners.
This week, the remains of 12 Eastern Cape PAC members, who were executed in 1964 for the Mbashe River construction site incident, were exhumed at Rebecca Street Cemetery in Tshwane. This leaves government with 71 remains to be exhumed.
President Zuma said reconciliation is also about providing support to those who sacrificed life’s comforts to free the country and its people. These groups include liberation armies such as Umkhonto weSizwe and the Azanian People’s Liberation Army or (APLA).
President Zuma said government is working hard to ensure that the socio-economic needs of former combatants are met, with the establishment of the Department of Military Veterans in 2014. Before addressing the community, the President and his delegation, which included Arts and Culture Minister Nathi Mthethwa, Communications Minister Faith Muthambi, State Security Minister David Mahlobo and Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs Minister Des van Rooyen, were welcomed with cheers from local residents, who packed the marque to full capacity.
It was previously known as Dingane’s Day and the Day of the Vow. It is a significant day in South African history. Its origins can be traced to the Battle of Blood River in 1838. The Voortrekker army defeated the Zulu army at the battle of Ncome River, which was fought over land ownership.
This year’s national event is being held at Black Aces Sports Grounds in Gopane, just outside Zeerust. This is in honour of the bravery of women in 1957 in Zeerust, who revolted against passes in the villages of Dinokana, Lekgopung and Motswedi.
“We salute the women of Gopane village in Zeerust, who organised a march against pass laws in 1957. Their actions illustrate the active participation of women in the struggle for liberation, not only in urban areas but in rural areas as well.
“This serves as an inspiration as we continue building a new nation, founded on the values of human rights, justice and equality,” said President Zuma ahead of today’s main event.
It is a sea of colour and sound to mark the day, with high police visibility in the area. But in the midst of the festivities, the importance of the day is not lost.
Many attending the national celebration were of the view that the country is upholding the preamble of the Constitution, which charges the nation to “Heal the divisions of the past and establish a society based on democratic values, social justice and fundamental human rights”. However, much more needs to be done.
For Martha Mokgotsi, progress has been made in reconciling the nation but she believes there is a long way to go, as there are still racist elements in society.
“We have come a long way but it’s a handful that continue to be ignorant and pull us back. For reconciliation to work, more still needs to be done. We still need healing and forgiveness because South Africa is an angry nation. For us to succeed in healing and forgiveness, we need to start working together in common humanity and ubuntu that brings us together.”
Hake Kgakatsi was of the view that the nation needs to move forward and forget the injustices of the past.
“We cannot reconcile until people let go of the past. For that to happen, we need to look beyond skin colour and embrace each other as human beings first. But I believe reconciliation is possible.”
Another youth, Kearabiwe Boikanyo (23), felt that the younger generation handles issues of race better than their parents.
“South Africa has evolved. For example, the current youth doesn’t have a problem looking beyond the issue of race. We interact well with other cultures, despite the few reported incidents.”
However, what needs to be accelerated, according to Biokanyo, are equal opportunities in the economy and education.
“The economy needs to be redistributed so that every skin colour is represented. The same goes for education. Everyone, regardless of their economic standing, must have access to education.”
Others were of the view that South Africans struggle to reconcile because the injustices brought by apartheid are still not dealt with fully. They want fairness and equal opportunities for all.
“The problem that has delayed reconciliation is that [not everybody is on board]. For example, when government arranges such national events and izimbizo, [not everyone will attend] but the issues affect us all. We need to get everyone on board if we want to move forward as a country,” Micheal Kgatsi said.
Although they might have a different approach to how reconciliation should work, one thing is for sure: the community of Zeerest is eager to listen to the President for some guidance.
Courtesy of SAnews.gov.za