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South Africans urged to promote reconciliation
by Gabi Khumalo
SAnews.gov.za Translate This Article
28 October 2012
Pretoria - The task of building a united South Africa is on-going and everyone should play a role in strengthening unity and social cohesion, says President Jacob Zuma.
'All of us, black and white, men and women, must participate actively in building unity and cohesion in our country and in promoting reconciliation,' said Zuma during his address at a parade to honour the contribution made by members of the liberation movement.
Zuma bestowed medals to more than 500 military veterans who distinguished themselves in various capacities prior to 1994 during the fight to end apartheid.
The parade was held on Saturday at the Air Force Base in Waterkloof to recognise members of Umkhonto we Sizwe (MK), whose 50th anniversary is being celebrated this year.
The event coincided with the birthday anniversary of the longest serving President of the ruling party, Oliver Reginald Tambo, who was also the longest serving commander of the MK, and played a major role in bringing democracy to South Africa.
Former members of the MK Luthuli detachment—the first group of combatants to carry out operations under the MK—received medals in the categories of platinum, gold and bronze for bravery, merit, campaigns and commemorative medals.
President Zuma said the decision to honour military veterans was not a 'favour or gesture', but rather a constitutional and legal obligation to which government was committed.
'Our Constitution [affords us a chance] to 'honour those who suffered for justice and freedom in our land'; Section 3 of the Military Veterans Act, 18, of 2011 further instructs us to honour and memorialise our military veterans.
'We honour all these constitutional imperatives, firmly believing and cognisant of the fact that the military veterans are the greatest heritage of any nation, more so our own,' said Zuma.
He added that over the next few months, the Department of Military Veterans and the South African National Defence Force will also honour other detachments of the MK as they wind up the celebration of its 50th anniversary.
The government will also honour the contribution of those who fought as part of the Azanian People's Liberation Army.
To give effect to the legacy and heritage of military veterans, Zuma further announced that various projects and research were underway to make sure that all those who died both inside and outside the country were duly honoured.
'One of these projects is the construction of the Matola Monument in Mozambique. Next January, President Guebuza of the Republic of Mozambique and myself will officially open the monument and Interpretive Centre in memory of those who were senselessly murdered there in the early hours of the morning on January 30, 1981. A heritage route is also being constructed to document the rich heritage and preserve our legacy,' he said.
The administration processes aimed at finalising the establishment of the Department of Military Veterans as a stand-alone department were also being fast tracked.
'This is in order to ensure that proper systems are put in place to assist with the registration of all our veterans, to ensure that they have access to the benefits and services we have all agreed on.'
One of the medal recipients, Major-General Wilson Ngqose, who fought in Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe) and participated in various campaigns, said it was a bittersweet day for him, but one where he could look back on the past with appreciation.
'It's a sad day because there are a lot of people who were there [but did not get medals]. There are relatives who came today seeking closure for their people who have passed on. They want pictures, we don't have pictures; we were not taking pictures during that time due to security reasons. We can only tell them what their dads were like in combats and through the suffering.
'These stories must be told in detail so that families can have closure. I've introduced some of the families to some of the generals and left them to talk... that's the least I can do,' said Ngqose.
Also present at the parade was political activist and former Robben Island prisoner, Andrew Mlangeni.
He commended government for the steps it has taken to honour the role played by military veterans. Mlangeni was among the 500 military veterans who received medals.
'Some served long terms in prison but worst of all, there are those comrades who didn't get to enjoy freedom as they died for us. We must ... see to it that we protect this freedom we have today,' said Mlangeni, who was also part of the Rivonia trial.
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