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Reconciliation not easy matter: South Africa President Jacob Zuma

CAPE TOWN South Africa (Xinhua) -- Reconciliation is not an easy matter, South African President Jacob Zuma said Friday, while urging all South Africans to recommit themselves to the cause.

Addressing a rally in Zeerust, North West Province, to mark the National Day of Reconciliation, Zuma said that as South Africans celebrated achievements in reconciliation, “we should also remember that reconciliation is a two-way process”.

“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.

He urged South Africans to bury racism, tribalism, xenophobia and all other intolerance, saying these tendencies rear their ugly heads from time to time.

South Africa has seen an increase in racist speech and crimes this year, including one high-profile incident in which two white men forced a black man into a coffin and threatened to light him on fire.

Earlier this year, a former estate agent also made headlines when she vented displeasure at the number of black people swarming public beaches during the New Year holiday, likening them to “monkeys.”

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.

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.

“We come from a painful past as South Africans. We have been able to come this far in 22 years because we took that conscious decision to move on, and build a new nation,” Zuma said, outlining measures to redress the painful past.

Among the measures, the government is currently engaged in a program of finding missing persons and handing over remains of former political prisoners 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 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 can not provide for their children, according to the president.

The National Day of Reconciliation is also about coming to terms with the painful tragedy that occurred in August 2012 in Marikana, North West Province, where about 44 people were killed, the majority of whom by police, during a strike at Lonmin Mine, Zuma said.

The issue of compensation, particularly for loss of support for the deceased families, for unlawful arrest and detentions, is being attended to, according to Zuma.

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