President Jacob Zuma used the National Prayer Day event in Durban to condemn violent protests that have wracked the country over the past few months.
“We are concerned about the destruction of infrastructure during protests,” he told about 8000 people who attended the event at Durban’s Kings Park Stadium on Sunday.
Zuma pointed to all the schools that had been built and the fact that government was in the process of building three new universities as well as other facilities.
“It causes us and all freedom loving South Africans a lot of pain to see such destruction,” he said.
While people had the right to protest they did not have the right to be violent. Efforts had to be made to prevent the youth from being manipulated and becoming “instruments of violence”.
“Let us isolate all who promote violence,” he said, also calling for peace during campaigning in the run-up to the local government elections on August 3.
Zuma received a rousing welcome from the 8000-strong crowd, many of whom wore African National Congress T-shirts with Zuma’s portrait emblazoned across the front. They cheered wildly as he entered Kings Park Stadium shortly after 1pm at the event hosted by the national arts and culture department. The stadium, home to the Sharks rugby team, has a capacity of about 52,000.
Several church groups dressed in colourful attire were present, while on the field a number of people in camouflage fatigues and a horde of journalists and photographers from various media houses were to be seen.
The event, which had originally been scheduled for April 29, saw various entertainers, ranging from a Burundian drumming group to local church choirs and singers, keeping the crowd entertained until Zuma’s arrival.
According to the programme – which had been scheduled to kick off at 11am – KwaZulu-Natal premier Senzo Mchunu had been due to speak, but community safety, liaison, and transport MEC Willies Mchunu spoke at the event in his place.
Mchunu said he had been asked by the premier to speak on his behalf and the speech he would be reading was that of the premier.
Other high profile politicians seen at the event included Social Development Minister Bathabile Dlamini, Deputy Agriculture, Forestry, and Fisheries Minister Bheki Cele, and Small Business Development Minister Lindiwe Zulu.
An enormous contingent of bodyguards escorted Zuma to the stage when he arrived.
Traffic in and around the stadium was severely disrupted in the morning as one of Durban’s major events – the East Coast Radio Big Walk – was taking place at the same time, which saw thousands of people walking past the stadium where the National Prayer Day event was to be held.
South Africa Today – South Africa News