Pretoria – President Jacob Zuma has urged South Africans in all places of worship, in mosques, synagogues or temples, to pray for peace, unity and tolerance.
“Across all faiths, in our nation and across the globe, prayer is a powerful force that unites nations and promotes national unity.
“We want a South Africa that is united and peaceful and which does not discriminate against anyone regardless of gender, class or race,” President Zuma said on Sunday at a National Day of Prayer event held at the Absa Stadium, in Durban.
He called on South Africans to isolate all those who promote violence.
“We urge all our people to unite and ensure that nobody disturbs the peace that we worked so hard to achieve,” he said.
President Zuma told the inter-denomination gathering that it was important to gather on this day to renew the country’s commitment to peace, unity, nation building as well as an inclusive non-sexist and non-racial society.
Destruction of property during protests
President Zuma used the occasion to express his concern about the destruction of property during protests.
“We are concerned about the destruction of infrastructure during protests. It causes us and all freedom loving South Africans a lot of pain and disappointment to see such important infrastructure being destroyed,” he said.
President Zuma told the gathering that government has built 795 schools since 2009 at a cost of R23 billion.
“People have a right to express themselves, which is guaranteed in the Constitution. Nobody in our country should tolerate or condone the use of violence. Our people should speak out and condemn violence.
“Our people should also condemn leaders and organisations that preach and promote violence,” he said.
He called on people to condemn leaders and organisations that preach and promote violence.
“We ushered in a peaceful society in 1994. We left violence, hatred and intolerance behind in 1994.
“We must not tolerate any party or individuals who seek to take us back to the apartheid period of violence, anarchy and pain. South Africa is a land of peace. South Africa is a land of tolerance,” he said.
Pray for peaceful elections
The President also called on political parties to abide by the Independent Electoral Commission Code of Conduct.
“In all our places of worship, our leaders of faith must lead us in praying for peaceful elections. We must unite our people against violence, thuggery and hooliganism and ensure that we maintain our track record of peaceful, free and fair elections in our country,” he said.
He also urged people to go out in their numbers to exercise their democratic right by going out to vote on the 3rd of August in the Local Government Elections.
Pray for rain
With regard to the current drought, President Zuma said drought has an impact on the slow economic growth that is slowing down the creation of jobs in the country.
“We pray for rain. Many provinces have been devastated by the drought. Our people face high food prices currently because of the drought,” he said.
Youth must respect elders
President Zuma also called on the youth to respect their elders as commanded by the Bible.
“They must respect their parents, respect one another, respect authority and they must respect the laws of their country,” he said.
The President also used the occasion to launch Africa month.
“In May, we promote our African identity. We also promote our languages, our culture and traditions as South Africans and Africans.
“We urge all our people to use this month to appreciate all that is good about being an African, and to pray for peace in our beloved continent.
“This is also the month for us to reach out and understand better the cultures and traditions of our brothers and sisters from other African countries. We are one people and one continent,” President Zuma said.
He also urged South Africans to pray for the country’s military, members of the SANDF, who are deployed in parts of the continent where they are exposed to danger, as they fight to build a peaceful Africa.
“We are proud of our soldiers. We salute them for working for peace, as we want all our brothers and sisters to enjoy peace and tranquillity in the African continent,” he said.
Departments involved in National Day of Prayer
Government hosted the event through the Department of Arts and Culture, supported by the Department of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs, as well as Water and Sanitation, as the prayer service also included prayers for rain and the promotion of water conservation under the persistent drought conditions.
The event was attended by religious leaders and leaders of civil society formations and government officials, among others.
They all joined government in praying for further consolidation of democracy, national unity, social cohesion, the rain as well as successful and peaceful 2016 local government elections.