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Wednesday, 22 August, 2001, 14:10 GMT 15:10 UK
South Africans urge tolerance
The torch of tolerance burns in Pretoria
The torch of tolerance burns in Pretoria
By Nokuthula Mazibuko in Pretoria

Hundreds of South Africans gathered at Pretoria's Church square on Tuesday to light candles, torches and lanterns in support of a campaign opposing racism, ahead of the World Conference Against Racism which opens in the coastal city Durban this month.

It is important... that we are not made to feel guilty for raising issues which have caused pain to other people in the world

Deputy President Jacob Zuma
To kick off the "Torches of Tolerance" campaign the country's top athletes carried a torch from Johannesburg to Pretoria where the main event took place.

As the clock struck midday, Pretoria mayor S'mangaliso Mkhatshwa, lit a bigger torch which was transported to the Union Buildings where it will burn until the end of the Conference on 7 September.

Elsewhere in the country government officials and citizens joined the campaign by lighting torches in a pledge to build a non-racist society.

Even motorists put on their car lights to show support.

Girl with candle
South African has made great strides against racism but problems remain
Addressing dignitaries at the Union Buildings Deputy President Jacob Zuma said the decision to hold the conference in South Africa meant the world recognised South Africa's fight against apartheid.

He said the nation should be proud for having built a respected democratic system.

In an apparent reference to the US threat to boycott the conference should slavery and reparations be discussed, Zuma stressed that no topics should be banned from the conference agenda.

He said: "It is important... that we are not made to feel guilty for raising issues which have caused pain to other people in the world."


Meanwhile in Cape Town, an estimated 20,000 Muslims marched against what they described as Israel's continued racism against Palestine.

They chanted "Zionism equals racism," and "Free Palestine".

The United States is also contesting calls to equate Zionism with racism at the upcoming conference.

See also:

11 Aug 01 | Americas
Slavery row dogs racism conference
09 Aug 01 | Americas
US may boycott racism conference
04 Aug 01 | Africa
New warning on racism conference
30 Jul 01 | Africa
Rows threaten racism conference
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