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Peace March remembered

Published Sep 3, 2009

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Though it was a watershed event in the fall of apartheid, in the two decades that have passed, Cape Town's historic 1989 peace march has faded from public memory.

But its spirit will burn bright again next week when an inter-faith service is held in the city's St George's Cathedral to mark the 20th anniversary of the event.

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On September 13 1989, tens of thousands of Capetonians gathered at the cathedral, responding to a call from Archbishop Desmond Tutu and supported by then mayor Gordon Oliver, to march for peace.

Tutu's call was in response to the deaths of more than 20 people in the city's townships as a result of protests against the tricameral elections held earlier that month.

At the time, a state of emergency was still in force.

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Current dean of the cathedral Rowan Smith said this week that the march - in which the security forces did not intervene - brought together the Mother City and united her citizens "in a way that had not happened before or has since".

"The Cape Town peace march ignited the imagination of the South African public who had been appalled at the level of state violence in response to the protests," he said.

"Further peaceful solidarity marches followed in all major cities in the weeks that followed as the demand for justice and democracy was taken up by ordinary citizens in unprecedented numbers."

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Smith said it was important that the anniversary of an event of such significance in the struggle against apartheid should not be allowed to pass unnoticed.

The commemoration was also intended as a reminder of what was possible when ordinary citizens were united in their resistance to injustices and social ills.

The service will be held on September 13, starting at 3pm. - Sapa

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