YOUTH URGED DENOUNCE XENOPHOBIC ATTACKS, FIGHT HIV AND AIDS

BuaNews , 16 June 2008

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Johannesburg - The youth of Gauteng have been urged to denounce the recent attacks directed at people from other countries and to focus on fighting against the spread of HIV and AIDS. Marking Youth Day on Monday at the Johannesburg Stadium, Gauteng Premier Mbazima Shilowa called the attacks on people from other countries unacceptable and urged youth to stand up against it. The premier said the youth must commit themselves to building a non-racial and a democratic country. "There is no need for the unnecessary attacks," the premier said. Attacks on people from other countries broke out in Alexandra in Johannesburg over a month ago, soon spreading to other informal settlements. Thousands of people were forced to flee their homes and seek refuge at police stations. At least 62 people killed and hundreds more injured. "Today's youth must look towards the youth of 1976 to find solutions to the challenges they are facing," he said. Monday was the 32nd anniversary of the Soweto Uprisings in which several students were killed during a protest against Bantu education laws being implemented in their schools. Various events were planned around the country with the main event taking place in Cape Town, where President Thabo Mbeki addressed the youth. In Gauteng the day's commemorations started with a wreath-laying ceremony at the Hector Peterson Memorial site in Soweto by Premier Shilowa accompanied by the Gauteng MEC for Sport, Arts and Culture, Barbara Creecy. Hector Peterson, 14, was killed by apartheid police during the Soweto Uprising. An infamous photograph was taken of him being carried by a fellow student. "Our aim as government is to make sure that the future of our young people is developed for the better," the premier said. Acknowledging the contribution made by the class of 1976 in the struggle against apartheid, the premier said without them, South Africans would not be enjoying democracy. Echoing these sentiments was the Gauteng Chairperson of the Youth Commission, Lebogang Maile. He urged the youth to focus on the challenges of HIV and Aids and to defend the country's democracy by registering to vote in next year's general election. "It is not right for fellow South African brothers to raise a hand against a fellow African brother," he said regarding the attacks. "A change of behaviour against such acts is needed." In the same vein, government calls on all youth organisations to ensure that all people in South Africa, including people from other countries, are protected from any form of violence and are encouraged to actively oppose any violence and to report any such acts to relevant authorities. Brian Maluleke, 19, from Diepkloof told BuaNews he wished he could meet the Soweto Uprising heroes and shake hands with them. "I was not born at that time, but I know they were indeed brave young people. I would like to thank them because today we are enjoying the fruits of their bravery," he said. Executive Mayor of Johannesburg Amos Masondo who also addressed the youth said Youth Day should be regarded as a thanks-giving day to all young people in South Africa. "The memories of 16 June 1976 must remain in our minds," he said. The mayor urged all young people to focus their energy on fighting against the spread of HIV and AIDS. He further urged young people to distance themselves from the attacks on people from other countries. "All of us must take a stand against these attacks," he said.