Never forget where we come from - Zuma

Johannesburg - South Africans should not forget where they came from and the strides made since the dawn of democracy, President Jacob Zuma said on Friday.

"If there can be anyone in South Africa who says it was better during apartheid, then we have forgotten where we come from," he told hundreds of people gathered at Regina Mundi Catholic Church in Soweto, Johannesburg.

"We need to be reminded where we come from."

He was speaking at a national interfaith thanksgiving ceremony to celebrate 20 years of freedom in South Africa.

Zuma said many people did not notice the important strides and decisions made in the country, which was why they had the notion that the country was now worse than under apartheid.

South Africa was an extraordinary country which was able to find solutions to its own problems without involving outside forces.

He added that the country had proved naysayers wrong with the peace that prevailed following the end of apartheid.

"We have something to celebrate, our freedom. The fact that we stopped fighting and killing each other to build our country. Many thought it would not last but it did, it [has] lasted 20 years," he said.

Zuma praised religious leaders and the role they had played in the country and the fight against oppression. They were not spectators in the struggle but had played an active role and still continued to do so.

"In counting all of our achievements, we cannot exclude religious leaders, for they have played a significant role. The church opened its doors to our people. This very church was our refuge," he said.

Among those present at the ceremony were North West Premier Supra Mahumapelo, Gauteng Premier David Makhura, Johannesburg Mayor Parks Tau, and Social Development Minister Bathabile Dlamini.

Congregants travelled from as far as the Northern Cape and the Western Cape to be part of the ceremony.

People from different denominations were dressed in colourful church regalia for the occasion.