Reconciliation Day: Healing the divisions of the past

South Africans across the country are marking Reconciliation Day under the theme 'Bridging the Divide towards a Non-racial Society'.

Reconciliation Day, which is observed annually on 16 December, was inaugurated in 1995 to help South Africans heal from the horror of the events of the past and to signal the promise of a shared future, regardless of race, culture or creed.

It was previously known as Dingane's Day and the Day of the Vow. It is a significant day in South African history. Its origins can be traced to the Battle of Blood River in 1838. The Voortrekker army defeated the Zulu army at the battle of Ncome River, which was fought over land ownership.

This year's national event is being held at Black Aces Sports Grounds in Gopane, just outside Zeerust. This is in honour of the bravery of women in 1957 in Zeerust, who revolted against passes in the villages of Dinokana, Lekgopung and Motswedi.

"We salute the women of Gopane village in Zeerust, who organised a march against pass laws in 1957. Their actions illustrate the active participation of women in the struggle for liberation, not only in urban areas but in rural areas as well.

"This serves as an inspiration as we continue building a new nation, founded on the values of human rights, justice and equality," said President Zuma ahead of today's main event.

It is a sea of colour and sound to mark the day, with high police visibility in the area. But in the midst of the festivities, the importance of the day is not lost.

SAnews spoke to some locals about the meaning of the day, if indeed the nation has reconciled and what needs to be done to nurture relations among citizens.

Many attending the national celebration were of the view that the country is upholding the preamble of the Constitution, which charges the nation to "Heal the divisions of the past and establish a society based on democratic values, social justice and fundamental human rights". However, much more needs to be done.

For Martha Mokgotsi, progress has been made in reconciling the nation but she believes there is a long way to go, as there are still racist elements in society.

"We have come a long way but it's a handful that continue to be ignorant and pull us back. For reconciliation to work, more still needs to be done. We still need healing and forgiveness because South Africa is an angry nation. For us to succeed in healing and forgiveness, we need to start working together in common humanity and ubuntu that brings us together."

Hake Kgakatsi was of the view that the nation needs to move forward and forget the injustices of the past.

"We cannot reconcile until people let go of the past. For that to happen, we need to look beyond skin colour and embrace each other as human beings first. But I believe reconciliation is possible."

Another youth, Kearabiwe Boikanyo (23), felt that the younger generation handles issues of race better than their parents.

"South Africa has evolved. For example, the current youth doesn't have a problem looking beyond the issue of race. We interact well with other cultures, despite the few reported incidents."

However, what needs to be accelerated, according to Biokanyo, are equal opportunities in the economy and education.

"The economy needs to be redistributed so that every skin colour is represented. The same goes for education. Everyone, regardless of their economic standing, must have access to education."

Others were of the view that South Africans struggle to reconcile because the injustices brought by apartheid are still not dealt with fully. They want fairness and equal opportunities for all.

"The problem that has delayed reconciliation is that [not everybody is on board]. For example, when government arranges such national events and izimbizo, [not everyone will attend] but the issues affect us all. We need to get everyone on board if we want to move forward as a country," Micheal Kgatsi said.

Although they might have a different approach to how reconciliation should work, one thing is for sure: the community of Zeerest is eager to listen to the President for some guidance.

Source: South African Government News Agency