Address at the Lighting of the Torches of Tolerance at the Union Buildings, Pretoria, 21 August 2001

South Africa’s hosting of the World Conference Against Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia and Related Intolerance (WCAR) is an important milestone in the evolution of our young democracy and as a government of South Africa. We will always cherish this event and remember it with pride. Some controversy should not detract from the overall topic of the Conference

The Conference has to deal with many issues; it is a deliberative Conference – it will trace the path for the future. Conference must emerge with a concrete programme of action.

Today, South Africans across the country are lighting torches of tolerance that will burn until the end of the Conference as a symbol of our united commitment to tolerance and diversity. A symbol of our tolerance towards all citizens and non-citizens of our country. Today these torches are being lit as a symbol of our acknowledgement of and our commitment to our diversity as South Africans.

South Africans struggled long and hard against a system of institutionalised discrimination. A system that was declared a crime against humanity by the United Nations. With the assistance of the international community we managed to put in place a democratically elected government that introduced mechanisms that would ensure the basic rights of every individual irrespective of colour, sex or creed.

The UN’s decision to host the Conference in SA is an acknowledgement of our achievement towards tackling racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerances and our attempt to establish a non-racial, non-sexist, non-discriminative society.

It is also an acknowledgement that creatively we are trying to fight the remaining vestiges of racism and other forms of intolerance. The world helped us to defeat Apartheid - we must now contribute to the international fight against racism, xenophobia and other forms of related intolerances.

Today’s events in our country are therefore important to demonstrate to our visitors who will be coming to the Conference our own commitment as individuals and as Government to this Conference and its positive, forward looking outcomes.

Let the torch of tolerance burn brightly throughout our country.

For further information contact Ronnie Mamoepa at 082 990 4853 or Basetsane Thokoane at 083 443 7740.

Issued by the Department of Foreign Affairs

Private Bag X 152



21st August 2001

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