All South African schoolgoers will have to learn the African Union anthem, President Jacob Zuma announced at Africa Day celebrations in Pretoria on Sunday.
“Starting today every school, church or community, choirs and individuals must practise the African Union anthem, so that we can sing [it] at all our important gatherings and celebrations,” Zuma told the crowd at the Africa Day celebrations, which took place at the University of Pretoria’s Mamelodi campus.
“If we start with our generation now that they sing it and understand it in schools, we have begun to plant a patriotism that will never go away to our citizens.”
Zuma urged South African institutions and companies to begin flying the African Union flag together with the South African flag. Africa Day falls on May 25 each year and marks the day the Organisation of African Unity, known today as the African Union, was founded in 1963.
Part of the day’s festivities included music performed by a South Africa Police Service band, to which President Zuma and other prominent guest speakers on the stage (such as African Union Commission chair Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma) danced enthusiastically. South Africa has also a month-long celebration of what it means to be African, launched on April 1, with a number of cultural activities on offer.
South Africans not xenophobic
The issue of xenophobia, which has been blamed for a number of violent incidents in KwaZulu-Natal and Gauteng recently, was unavoidable on the day. Zuma insisted xenophobia was not entrenched in South Africa.
“South Africans are not xenophobic, there are elements of criminality that conduct criminal activities to rob people of their goods, that pretend they are xenophobic. I think it is important for us to be aware of these very simple facts,” he told the crowd.
He said the media had reported on the violence and the xenophobic element in an “exaggerated fashion”.
Dlamini-Zuma also addressed the crowd on the issue of xenophobia. She said when she was growing up in South Africa she had thought it was the most diverse African country. “So we must deal with this aberration of people who beat up someone and say it’s because they are not from here. It’s not South African. South Africans really are very diverse.”
The AU Commission chair said it was painful to watch recent incidents unfold from Ethiopia, where she now resides. “What warmed our hearts is when we saw the South Africans led by the president and the government in their formations … coming out and saying ‘no we are South Africans, we are Africans’,” she said.
“Our fortunes in Africa are intertwined, there is not a country that can develop to its full potential without the rest of Africa developing. So we are one continent, one people, one destiny and that is how we should look at it.”