ZEERUST – Friday’s Reconciliation Day celebrations at Gopane in North West, South Africa, were called off after President Jacob Zuma had to be driven away during a freak storm.

The violent storm with strong winds ripped through the marquee as the president was discussing compensation efforts for the families of the Markana massacre victims. He said part of reconciliation is coming to terms with the tragedy that had occurred in North West.

The gale force winds ripped through the tent, lifting it off the ground and drenching the full-capacity crowd in heavy rain. The President was escorted to safety. No injuries were reported.

This year’s commemoration theme was ‘Bridging the Divide Towards a Non-racial Society’ as South Africa reels from incidents like the ‘Coffin Assault’, and racist language from social media users like Vicki Momberg and Penny Sparrow.

President Zuma said reconciliation is a two-way street. He said: “While black people are implored to come to bury the pain of the past and move on, white compatriots should also be ready to accept and support the imperative of transformation and redress.”

He said: “The implementation of measures to deracialise the economy, such as Black Economic Empowerment, Affirmative Action and land reform remain critical for us to achieve true and meaningful reconciliation.”

North West Premier Supra Mahumapelo said: “Forgiving is not easy. Our nation is called upon to reach out and bridge the divide.”

Sources include SAnews.gov.za 

Scenes in nearby Lehurutshe after the freak storm: