SA in crisis in photos
Pretoria, South Africa
16 December 2005 11:33
As the South African president pondered the true extent of racial harmony on Friday, a group of rightwingers spurned Reconciliation Day celebrations and assembled separately to lament their perceived loss of power.
Addressing a crowd gathered at Freedom Park in Pretoria to mark the national day, President Thabo Mbeki said black and white South Africans may be marching in different directions, turning a blind eye to one another.
"We need to confront what may be an uncomfortable question, whether as South Africans, black and white, we are under the same flag and under the same anthem marching separately -- even pretending at times that the other does not exist," he said.
On the city's Church Square, a few hundred supporters of Afrikaner Weerstandsbeweging leader Eugene Terre'Blanche reminisced about the heyday of white dominance.
Dressed in traditional khaki and carrying old Boer republic flags, the crowd listened as Terre'Blanche called on the "volk" [nation] to close ranks.
"We have lost everything. We have lost our country," said Terre'Blanche, who was freed from jail last year after serving time for assaulting a black man.
"I've come to gather the volk," he said. "The volk must get together again and go into a laager."
An ox wagon, a symbol of Afrikaner nationalism, was parked on the square. Metro police kept a close eye on traffic as Terre'Blanche and a few henchmen arrived and departed on horeseback.
Mbeki said individual South Africans have not worked for the creation of a unified society to the same extent the government had done.
"... we have not seen ... rigorous people's initiatives to create a non-racial and non-sexist society," he told the crowd.
"We clearly need to ask ourselves whether we have done what we need to do to overcome the stereotypes that were entrenched over many years by racist policies of the past, or [whether] we still quietly pander to those stereotypes."
Real reconciliation and nation building could only happen when South Africans, through their own initiative and without government prompting, took decisive steps to break down "the racial walls that still define us", the president said.
Wealth distribution represented one such wall. The rich, Mbeki said, had become so through the sweat and toil of others -- many of whom remained poor.
Tshwane metro mayor Smangaliso Mkhatshwa said it was apt to mark Reconciliation Day in a city that was once a "personification of oppression".
"We have turned the Pretoria of racial hatred into a Tshwane of ... prosperity," he told guests.
Some whites have been challenging plans to change the name of the city, which falls under the greater Tshwane metropolitan area.
Terre'Blanche told his followers they need not hate other people.
"We just want the same rights as any other nation on this planet".
He also lamented what he described as the "loss" of land he claimed Afrikaners had bought legally.
Piet Molopi, one of a few dozen curious black onlookers, found this statement hurtful.
"The land belonged to our forebears first, and the whites took it. It [Terre'Blanche's statement] didn't sit right with me."
Mbeki said one way in which the government had sought to redress apartheid wrongs had been through the victim reparations in the form of grants and bursaries, reburials for the fallen, special pensions and housing.
The Truth and Reconciliation Commission, set up 10 years ago, had identified those victims entitled to reparations.
Mbeki said Justice Minister Brigitte Mabandla was finalising a report on how the government was putting the commission's recommendations into action.
"As soon as this report has been finalised, she will report to the nation."
On Thursday, the ministry said just over 1 000 of about 22 000 people identified as victims of apartheid, had yet to receive reparation payments of R30 000 each.
Of these, about 700 could not be traced.
Mbeki thanked the TRC on Friday for its contribution to national reconciliation, as well as those victims and perpetrators who came forward to tell their stories.
Earlier this month, commission chairperson Archbishop emeritus Desmond Tutu said the government should have prosecuted apartheid-era perpetrators of atrocities who had refused to come clean.
He also reportedly said that victims of apartheid brutality were not adequately compensated. - Sapa