Strugle veterans took centre stage at the Day of Reconciliation celebrations at Freedom Park in Pretoria, where President Jacob Zuma honoured those who fought for South Africa’s liberation.

The “forgotten heroes” were on Monday awarded a “token of gratitude”, which included a South African flag, and honoured for their selfless sacrifice.

The event was staged in two parts: the first, which started at 3am, was the culmination of a cleansing and healing process that Freedom Park has been engaged in over the past year with traditional leaders.

The second was the honouring of struggle war veterans from Gauteng.

The names of about 100 dead veterans were handed over to Freedom Park for verification and inscription on the Wall of Names. Despite the event being touted as a government function, a market had been set up at the entrance to the arena where guests could buy ANC memorabilia such as camouflage hats, shirts, tablecloths and DVDs.

Mr Zuma said this year’s Day of Reconciliation was dedicated to the forgotten heroes of the country’s liberation, the freedom fighters who left their homes and went into exile.

“When they left the comfort of their home and family, the only comfort they sought was merely that they could contribute to the dawn of the new South Africa.”

He acknowledged that the situation had become difficult for many former fighters after the initial homecoming celebrations.

“Soon they became forgotten heroes of the struggle. Many are known to live in abject poverty in a country they sacrificed so much for.”

Source: (www.thestar.co.za 20091217)

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