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90 Years of ANC and the Africa Fight Forward

Mbeki calls for S.African unity, African revival

By Hilary Gush

JOHANNESBURG, Jan 6 (Reuters) - President Thabo Mbeki called on South Africans on Sunday to build a non-racist society and committed the country to helping revive Africa's economies to make it the "continent of light."

At a rally to mark the 90th anniversary of the ruling African National Congress, Mbeki said the organisation would spend the years running up to its centenary tackling the "legacy of racism, sexism, colonialism and apartheid."

"Let all who consider themselves as patriots respond to the call -- with the people, for the people," Mbeki told a crowd of thousands packed into a sports stadium in Durban. He declared 2002 'the year of the volunteer' for the ANC, in power since minority white rule ended in 1994.

"We have to work with our African brothers and sisters to ensure that ours is a continent of peace and friendship...of democracy, human rights, social progress and prosperity."

Mbeki, backed by the presidents of Nigeria, Algeria and Senegal, is driving the New Partnership for Africa's Development (NEPAD) -- modelled on the U.S. Marshall Plan for rebuilding Europe after World War Two.

NEPAD is targeting annual investment of $64 billion to revive Africa's ailing economies and alleviate the poverty that blights much of the world's poorest continent.

Against a backdrop of banners declaring "Africa's time is now," Mbeki said Africans must ensure globalisation did not widen the gap between the rich West and poor developing world.


Mopping his brow under a blistering sun, Mbeki called for a "new patriotism based on a sense of community, respect for the dignity of every individual and a shared destiny."

He said South Africa had to work to defeat terrorism, giving as examples the genocide in Rwanda in 1994 as well as the September 11 attacks on the United States.

"We must remain firm in the stand we took even during our own liberation struggle, that nothing can ever justify resort to the anti-human tactic of terrorism."

Mbeki said the rand's sharp decline in 2001 -- a loss of 37 percent on the dollar -- had nothing to do with South Africa's economic fundamentals.

"This development brought sharply to the fore the need for all of us, as South Africans, to act together to promote our national interests and avoid acting in any manner that would undermine our common future," Mbeki said.

The Mbeki government's approach to curbing the AIDS pandemic has been widely criticised, especially since Mbeki has questioned the causal link between HIV and AIDS.

"Our continent is then seen as being synonymous with AIDS...this challenge must be met seriously," he said.

Mbeki called for a crackdown on one of the highest crime rates in the world, with 21,000 murders in 2000 alone.

"We also have to work hard radically to reduce the incidence of crime in our society, to increase the safety and security of all our citizens," he said. END

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