Paarl - South Africans should stop talking their country and its economy down, President Jacob Zuma said on Thursday.
Speaking at a Human Rights Day commemoration ceremony in Mbekweni township, near Paarl in the Western Cape, he told his audience: "We need to take a more balanced view of our country".
Zuma called on all to work with government to build both the country and its economy, "to make our country attractive to both foreign and local investors".
On recent cases of police brutality, Zuma called on people not to condemn the 200,000 members of the force for the actions of a few.
Communities should support their policemen and women because they could only fight crime with their support.
Zuma also denounced discrimination against foreigners living in South Africa.
"We condemn strongly any acts of xenophobia or any attacks or resentment directed at foreign nationals living in our country."
Though billed as a commemoration, the event had all the hallmarks of a political rally. Many people inside the venue were dressed in ANC colours and the first 10 rows of seats were packed with elderly members of the party's women's league.
One waved a large yellow flag with the words "Phinda [do it again] Msholozi". Msholozi is Zuma's clan name.
The Kaapse Klopse minstrel group that entertained the crowd ahead of Zuma's arrival was decked out in red, green and yellow.
As Zuma began his address, he reminded the crowd the day was about a celebration, not a political competition.
Human Rights Day in South Africa is linked to the Sharpeville massacre.
On March 21, 1960, police opened fire on a crowd of protesters in the township of Sharpeville, near Vereeniging, killing 69 people.
The day is distinct from International Human Rights Day, which is celebrated on December 10 each year and marks the United Nations General Assembly's adoption and proclamation of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
In 1966, the United Nations designated March 21 as the International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination.
In a statement on Thursday, the presidency said this year's commemoration was aimed at emphasising "the need to move beyond the political gains of freedom and promote the socio-economic... or second generation rights in the Constitution, such as rights to basic services and others".
The theme for this year's event was "united in advancing socio-economic freedom for all".