WE NEED A NEW SOUTH AFRICAN: MBEKI

ANC Daily News Briefing/Sapa, 27 April 2008

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There was a need for a "new South African" who embodied everything that was morally good, President Thabo Mbeki said on Sunday. He was addressing several thousand people at the national Freedom Day celebrations at a blustery Turfhall Stadium in Cape Town. Freedom Day marks the anniversary of South Africa's first democratic elections in 1994. Mbeki said the country faced a challenge around moral regeneration. "In this regard, all religious institutions, business bodies, political parties, trade unions, community organisations, youth and women structures should unite so that together we can help bring into being the kind of South African citizen who will embody everything that is morally good," he said. "Indeed, to bring about this new South African who does not do crime, who is not racist, who is not sexist, who is not xenophobic and who works had to make our country succeed, will mean all of us engaging in business unusual and putting all hands on deck." Mbeki said South Africans could not claim to be truly free when racism still reared its "ugly head" in institutions of higher learning, the media, the private sector and in boardrooms. "We are all people, we are all South Africans, and we must together fight racism," he said. "The public debate and widespread condemnation by the majority of our people of [recent] racist incidents indicate that South Africans will not tolerate people who want to drag us back into the savagery of racism and apartheid." Mbeki condemned what he called "xenophobic occurrences" in some communities in recent weeks. South Africans should refuse to be part of "unnecessary" attacks of innocent people just because they were foreigners. It was not true that crime was mainly committed by non-South Africans. "If indeed some foreigners are involved in crime, we cannot mete out collective punishment to all foreigners because of the criminal deeds of the bad few individuals. "In this regard and at all times, no individual or a group of individuals should take the law into their own hands." And in a more light-hearted warning, addressed directly to the crowd in the stadium, he noted that Monday would also be a holiday, and urged them not to drink too much. "When I come back to Cape Town on Tuesday I want to find everyone alive and no-one with a babelaas [hangover]," he said. Earlier a 21-gun salute and an air force flypast marked the formal start of the celebrations. To the delight of the crowd, two Oryx helicopters from 22 Squadron ferried large South African flags over the stadium, followed by three Dakotas and a diamond-formation of 16 Astras from the Central Flying School at Langebaanweg. Mbeki, together with Arts and Culture Minister Pallo Jordan and Western Cape premier Ebrahim Rasool, took the salute from members of the National Ceremonial Guard in their dark-green uniforms. Although according to an early and provisional version of the programme, Mbeki was to be thanked by Cape Town mayor Helen Zille, her place was taken by deputy mayor Grant Haskins. Zille is in KwaZulu-Natal, where she addressed a Freedom day event organised by the Democratic Alliance, which she leads.