Govt committed to Aids challenge, says Mbeki

The government will continue carrying out its programmes to fight HIV/Aids, President Thabo Mbeki said on Sunday.

All South Africans, for their part, should act responsibly to help curb the spread of the disease, he told a Freedom Day rally in Orkney in North West province.

In an apparent response to mounting calls for a national public sector antiretroviral treatment plan, Mbeki contended the government had stepped up its battle against Aids and other diseases.

This applied in terms of budget allocations as well as programmes adopted.

“Once more, with regard to Aids, we call on all our people to act responsibly and respond to the call for abstinence, being faithful and using a condom,” he said.

“The government will continue to implement all its programmes that seek to confront this challenge.”

The past week has seen demonstrations in several major cities by the Treatment Action Campaign, pushing for antiretrovirals to be provided by the state to people with HIV/Aids.

The country’s main Freedom Day celebration at the James Motlatsi athletics stadium outside Orkney, drew thousands of people.

They cheered loudly as Mbeki arrived in his black official car to inspect the national ceremonial guard, and to take the national salute.

A 21-gun salute was fired as an SA Air Force helicopter, dragging a large national flag, flew over the stadium.

Gospel singer Solly Moholo earlier kicked off the day with the crowd crooning along. Kwaito music followed.

Then came the Bart Cornelius band, playing traditional Boer music. Because of an apparent sound problem they could not be heard properly, and the mostly black audience sat demurely through the item.

North West provincial premier Popo Molefe welcomed the crowd, while Arts, Culture, Science end Technology Minister Ben Ngubane introduced Mbeki.

He highlighted the fruits of freedom, listing benefits such greater access to water, housing, education, and health for the majority of South Africans.

The struggle against poverty and unemployment should be stepped up.

Mbeki said he was confident the coming growth and development summit would come up with ways to help improve the performance of the economy and overcome joblessness and poverty.

Mbeki also called for the fight against crime to be expanded.

“Through our determined efforts, criminals must feel that they do not belong in our communities.
Together we must defeat crime and make our areas safe because we did not win our freedom for criminals to terrorise our communities.

Mbeki’s speech rounded off a two-day tour of the North West as part of his imbizo programme, labelled as an exercise to reach out to ordinary people.

Before his departure in a helicopter, he went on a walkabout around the stadium, to the delight of the crowd.

As people shouted their approval, many scrambled forward to shake the Mbeki’s hand over the fence keeping spectators from the field. - Sapa

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