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Jacob Zuma unhurt as tent collapses during Day of Reconciliation celebration

By Xinhua | Published Sun, December 18th 2016 at 14:56, Updated December 18th 2016 at 15:02 GMT +3
The tent was uplifted by strong winds as Jacob Zuma was delivering a speech to hundreds of people at a rally in Zeerust, North West Province to mark the Reconciliation Day. (Photo: Reuters)

President Jacob Zuma was unhurt when a tent he was in collapsed at an event marking the National Day of Reconciliation on Friday, the Presidency said.

The tent was uplifted by strong winds as Zuma was delivering a speech to hundreds of people at a rally in Zeerust, North West Province to mark the Reconciliation Day. Zuma was about to finish the speech when the tent suddenly collapsed due to strong winds.

The president was pulled away by his body guards to a safe place, the Presidency said, adding that Zuma was unhurt. The strong winds brought the celebration to an abrupt end. In 1995, the first democratically elected government declared December 16 as the National Day of Reconciliation with the aim of healing a painful division between black and white people.

In his address, Zuma said reconciliation is not an easy matter and requires all South Africans to recommit themselves to walking this important journey together. As South Africans celebrated achievements in reconciliation, "we should also remember that reconciliation is a two-way process", Zuma said.

"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," Zuma noted.

The implementation of measures to deracialize the economy, such as black economic empowerment, affirmative action and land reform remain critical for South Africans to achieve true and meaningful reconciliation, he said.

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Among the measures taken by the government to redress the painful past is a programme to find missing persons and also handing over of the remains of former political prisoners who were executed by the apartheid government to their families, according to Zuma.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, Zuma said.

The government is also working hard to ensure that the socio-economic needs of former anti-apartheid combatants are met as many of them are unable to look after themselves and cannot provide for their children, said Zuma.

"Government will not rest until the services reach all our veterans who served in the liberation movement, as we continue the journey towards reconciliation," said Zuma.

Zuma urged South Africans to bury racism, tribalism, xenophobia and all other intolerances. These tendencies rear their ugly heads from time to time, he said.

"Let us support one another and build a South Africa that is united, non-racial, non-sexist and prosperous," Zuma added.