Durban: South African President Jacob Zuma has lauded the Hindu community here for their role in the struggle against apartheid and acknowledged their contribution to the social, economic and political reconstruction of the country.
Congratulating the South African Hindu Maha Sabha on its centenary, Zuma noted that the community was an integral part of South African society.
"This historic moment coincides with the centenary of the African National Congress (ANC), the very organisation which fought for the linguistic, religious and cultural rights of the bodies such as the Hindu Maha Sabha over the years," Zuma said.
"The Hindu Maha Sabha reminds us of our historic links with India, one of the first countries outside Africa to highlight our struggle for liberation at the UN in 1946 and to recognise the ANC. The ANC was allowed to establish a mission in New Delhi and it was granted full diplomatic status in 1967," he said.
"The bonds of friendship and solidarity between South Africa and India were thus solidified through a shared struggle identity and colonial experience. Such struggle was also aimed at preserving our very essence of being and dignity, our religions, our languages and culture," he added.
Zuma welcomed the objectives of the Maha Sabha of building good relations between Hindus and other communities locally and internationally while also striving for sound nation building.
"That fits in well with the goals of government, of promoting social cohesion," Zuma said.
The President said that besides Mahatma Gandhi, many South Africans of Indian origin and specifically Hindus had played a prominent part in South Africa`s struggle for freedom and continued to play a meaningful role in the social, economic and political reconstruction of the country.
"When the new democratic government was inaugurated in 1994, South Africans of Indian descent were appointed to government, and many continue to serve in the National Parliament, Provincial Legislatures and local government," Zuma said.
"This continues to affirm the Freedom Charter and Constitutional assertion that South Africa indeed belongs to all of us," he added.
Commenting on how the new South African Constitution protects the rights of all groups to foster their respective languages, Zuma called for Indian youth to learn their languages so as to be in touch with their culture and traditions.
"That will not make them less South African. Instead, they will add to the rainbow mix and make this a more colourful country when it comes to languages as well," Zuma said.