President Thabo Mbeki used Freedom Day celebrations to hit out at crime, corruption, unemployment, a lack of housing and general lawlessness. He called on the general public to work with the government to rid the country of crime

Sapa and Waghied Misbach

Sapa and Waghied Misbach

Political parties and civil society leaders marked 13 years of freedom from apartheid by pointing to the challenges facing this country's youthful democracy - including crime, corruption, masses of poor people and a lack of jobs.

In his speech at a stadium in Bisho, Eastern Cape, President Thabo Mbeki called on all South Africans to join the fight against crime and corruption.

Mbeki said communities should form street and area committees like the ANC and other banned political parties did under apartheid.

"There is a minority in our country who have made crime their business, who terrorise our communities, robbing our people, raping our people, raping women and children, using unimaginable violence on law-abiding citizens of our country."

He said citizens should report crime and contact provincial commissioners, the national commissioner and provincial and national political ministers if they did not find satisfactory response from the police.

He said corrupt government officials should be reported.

While Mbeki concentrated on crime and corruption in his speech, Cosatu said poverty was undermining freedom of many in this country.

"You cannot really celebrate your freedom if you are unemployed, have no income and no proper house," said Cosatu.

About 22 million people lived in poverty, 40 percent of the working population is unemployed and millions still lived in shacks.

"This poor majority cannot understand the statements they hear on the radio or read in the newspapers about the economic boom and record profits and executives' massive salaries," said the federation.

The "much-trumpeted" 500000 jobs a year were not being created fast enough to halve unemployment by 2014.

Racism and exploitation was still commonplace, especially on farms and "millions of HIV and Aids sufferers were denied the fruits of freedom".

Outgoing DA leader Tony Leon, in his Freedom Day speech, said he believed there were 13 threats to the country's freedom.

The first was the government's attempts to encroach on the independence of the judiciary and the second too much power in Mbeki's hands.

This was followed by "closing of spaces to civil society" in third place; in fourth the encroachment on media freedom; the fifth lack of democratic outcomes, referring to the ANC's attempts to overthrow mayor Helen Zille.

The sixth was crime; in seventh place government's foreign policy which supports "rogue" states.

Eighth was the ANC's attempt to rewrite history, including changing names of places; followed in ninth by the HIV-Aids pandemic.

In 10th place was poverty and unemployment; followed by lack of education and skills, and the last two were the failure to deliver on promises and the ANC's obsession with power in society.