Johannesburg – Reconciliation does not mean forgetting or trying to bury the painful history of conflict, President Jacob Zuma said on Tuesday.
“It means that while we remember the pain of the past, we will not allow it to stop us from building a better tomorrow.”
He was speaking in Dundee, KwaZulu-Natal to commemorate the National Day of Reconciliation.
Zuma said colonialism of a special type continued to deprive the African people of their land and made them pariahs in their motherland.
He said for some, 16 December was a symbol of triumph, for others, the symbol of resistance and pain, or alternatively a bitter experience of wars and dispossession.
“For the Afrikaner people, the 16th of December became the Day of Vow or the Day of the Covenant, remembering the success over the Zulu Nation.
“For the Zulu people and the African people in general, 16 December became known as Dingane’s Day, symbolising resistance against colonial aggression.”
He said the ANC launched Umkhonto we Sizwe on 16 December 1961.
“For many decades, 16 December became the day on which to remember and celebrate the armed struggle against apartheid colonialism.”
In April 1994, a journey to rebuild a new nation began.
“We began to work towards peace, and harmonious co-existence.”
He said under the leadership of President Nelson Mandela, government gave a new meaning to 16 December, changing the day to the National Day of Reconciliation.
“This big idea of reconciliation was first introduced in the make-up of the South African government after the 1994 elections. This was the government of national unity.”
He said the aim was to have an inclusive Cabinet that contained leaders from the opposition parties.
“This was one of the most difficult undertakings in the history of humankind.
“We had no choice but to work together to bring peace, stability and a common future to ancestral land.”
He said 20 years later, South Africans looked back with great pride at what had been achieved.
“It took the political acumen and astuteness of our leaders of all political formations led by the ANC to champion the idea of reconciliation.”
He said generations to come would testify that people who lived through the period of transition from apartheid colonialism to a new non-racial, democratic society, were a truly wonderful and remarkable generation to have been able to overcome fear, hatred and pain to build a new non-racial future.