In an unusually sharp state-of-thenation address Friday, President Nelson Mandela read the riot act to a country increasingly beset by violent crime, labor unrest and challenges to government authority.
Mandela opened the second session of South Africa’s all-race Parliament in Cape Town with a stern warning to those causing “anarchy in our society.”
“I speak of those who engage in such totally unacceptable practices as the murder of police officers, the taking of hostages, riots, looting, the forcible occupation of public buildings, blocking of public highways, vandalization of public and private property and so on,” he said.
They “misread `freedom’ to mean `license’,” and took advantage of democracy to “impose chaos on society,” Mandela said in the nationally televised speech to a joint sitting of the Senate and National Assembly.
Despite the tough new law and order line, the 76-year-old leader gave no indication how the triparty government would deal more forcibly or effectively with recent disturbances - from illegal squatters who have occupied new homes, to militant labor strikes marred by severe vandalism and assault.
Political violence has dropped dramatically since last April’s all-race elections, although about 100 people still are killed each month in massacres, assassinations and internecine warfare, mostly in KwaZulu Natal province.
But reported violent crime has surged to record levels.
As he has before, Mandela blamed the previous, apartheid-era regime for saddling his government with heavy debts and a legacy of corruption. Scandals have swirled around several members of Mandela’s administration, including his estranged wife, Winnie Mandela.
“We are conscious of the reality that corruption in many forms has deeply infected the fiber of our society,” Mandela said.
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