Thabo Mbeki’ incendiary Freedom Day speech sparks controversy

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President Thabo Mbeki of South Africa has stirred up controversy with a speech appearing to characterise the Western Cape as a place of drunks and armed criminals.

Reports from South Africa say that,while making a speech on Freedom Day on Sunday in to Cape Town Mbeki told his audience that “when I return here on Tuesday, let me not find anybody with babbelas.”

In possibly his last Freedom Day speech as president, Mbeki said: “Just
because it’s a public holiday tomorrow (Monday), don’t resort to alcohol. “We must celebrate Freedom Day but not with alcohol. Let’s leave the guns and knives at home so that when I return here we are all here and nobody has babbelas.”

Mbeki’s “babbelas” statement that caught a number of people in the
audience off-guard has come under heavy criticism from social commentators who say Mbeki’s comments were “patronising, insulting and inappropriate”.

Kadalie also criticised Mbeki’s delivery at the Freedom Day event. “I was
appalled at his inability to talk to people. He read his speech, and never once looked up,” she said. “He’s very alienated from the coloured people of the Western Cape. They are cannon fodder – they are neglected, marginalised and feel left out of the equation. “The only time these people matter is when elections come closer.”

However on a serious note Mbeki called on South Africans to unite in action to confront the “savagery of racism” and the challenges of high food and fuel prices.

Mbeki stressed that even 14 years into democracy, South Africans couldn’t be truly free while so many still live in poverty and racism persisted.

“Indeed, we can’t claim to be truly free when insidious and blatant racism still exists in our society.

“We can’t claim to be truly free when racism still rears its ugly head in
our institutions of higher learning, in the media, in the private sector, in the boardrooms and with the xenophobic occurrences that we observed in some communities in recent weeks,”

His address on Freedon Day was his last as president.

Mbeki said the widespread condemnation of recent acts of racism and xenophobia showed that South Africans “will not tolerate people who want to drag us back into the savagery of racism and apartheid”.

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