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SAF President Urges Citizens to Fight Crime in Freedom Day Speech


South Africa's President, Thabo Mbeki, has urged fellow citizens to work together to fight crime, poverty and racism. Mr. Mbeki made the remarks in a speech marking the anniversary of his country's first democratic elections. Correspondent Scott Bobb reports from Johannesburg.

South African President Thabo Mbeki Friday issued one of his strongest statements to date against violent crime in a country with one of the highest crime rates in the world.

"There is a minority in our country who have made crime their business, who terrorize our communities, robbing our people of their hard-earned valuables, raping women and children and in the process using unimaginable violence against law abiding citizens," he said.

Mr. Mbeki urged citizens to fight back by reporting crime and corruption to the authorities.

He made the remarks during a rally marking the 13th anniversary of the country's first multi-racial elections that brought democracy to South Africa and ended the apartheid era.

The South African leader spoke in the city of Bisho, on the eastern Cape coast 800 kilometers south of Johannesburg. Bisho was the site of a 1992 massacre by right-wing extremists who opposed negotiations that eventually ended apartheid.

Mr. Mbeki said that since then South Africa has made great progress, but it still faces challenges such as eradicating what he called the legacy of its terrible past.

"Freedom and democracy in our country gave birth to a culture of human rights," he said. "At the center of that new culture of human rights is the promotion of non-sexism and non-racialism."

Mr. Mbeki also acknowledged growing political pressure to extend equality to the economic sector in a society where two-thirds of the population lives on less than two dollars per day.

"Let all today on this day, Freedom Day, rededicate ourselves to build a better society in which we can defeat poverty, unemployment, homelessness and economic marginalization," he said.

Mr. Mbeki is due to step down as head of the ruling African National Congress at the end of the year. A fierce battle to succeed him is being waged behind the scenes.

The head of the ANC will likely be the party's candidate in presidential elections due in two years. Nearly a dozen senior leaders have been mentioned as possible contenders.

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