Address by Deputy Minister Mabudafhasi at opening of the Democracy Exhibition KwaZulu-Natal Museum, Pietermaritzburg

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08 Aug 2014

Programme Director;

Your Worship the Mayor of Msunduzi Municipality, Cllr Chris Ndlela;

Chairperson of the Council of the KwaZulu-Natal Museum, Prof. Nomahlubi Makunga;

Deputy Chairperson of the Council, Dr. Zungu;

Curators and Museum Officials;

Distinguished Guests;

Members of the media;

Ladies and Gentlemen,

I am pleased to be at this special occasion to open the Democracy Exhibition that showcases our country’s proud history and the strides made since the attainment of our democracy twenty years ago.

The Democracy Exhibition funded by the National Lottery Distribution Trust Fund with a life span of three years seeks to celebrate 20 years of democracy through an informative exhibition on South Africa’s heritage and achievements, to create a sense of pride and appreciation by looking at how our diversity, heritage and achievements unite us,  to create a traveling display based on the exhibition that will tour schools and community centres and create areas of engagement with the public – where points of view can be shared.

We are opening this exhibition just on the eve of Women’s Day to be celebrated under the theme, “Celebrating the 60th anniversary of the Women’s Charter and 20 years of Freedom: together moving non-racial and non-sexist south Africa Forward”

The South African Federation of Women drew up the Women’s Charter in 1954 and as everyone knows we mark Women’s Day on the 9th August because 20,000 courageous women of all races marched to the Union Buildings in protest against the extension of the Pass Laws to the African women on the 9th August 1956.

In his February and June 2014 State of the Nation Addresses, President Jacob Zuma related the good story of 20 years of freedom and democracy, and stated that South Africa is a much better place now than it was in 1994. While almost all South Africans are aware of the transition of our country into a democratic state in 1994, many have hazy memories of how that freedom and democracy was achieved, the trials and tribulations that many of our people went through so that we could enjoy the freedom we have today.

As we celebrate our 20 years of Democracy it is important to look back at where we were then, and where we are today. The then versus now theory should be used as a measure of our success in ensuring that we build positive values and love for our country. With 20 years into the democratic dispensation, our country is faced with many challenges that threaten to undo many of the gains made since the birth of democracy.

By constantly developing exhibitions and other monuments that honour the heroes and heroines of the struggle and the successes that have been achieved through our proud cultures and heritage, we continuously remind ourselves of our achievements and motivate ourselves to do more.

During the birth of our democracy in 1994, our priority as a country was to build a new heritage landscape for our people, the one centred on our philosophy of Ubuntu, our interconnectedness and common humanity.

This exhibition highlights key aspects of our success in creating a unifying heritage landscape for the people of South Africa, Africa and the World.

Aspects like the National Flag, National Coat of Arms and National Anthem have all been used to promote nationhood and celebrate our diverse cultures and heritage.

The National Symbols and National Orders have been used as symbols of our strength in diversity and to honour the individuals that best represent the values that all of us loved and wished to accomplish in the promotion of nation building and social cohesion.

Former president Nelson Mandela remarked that “our rich and varied cultural heritage has a profound power to help build our nation”.

The Department of Arts and Culture committed to spend close to R34 million to put flags in all schools as part of nation building and national identity. Exhibitions like the Democracy Exhibition supplements such programmes and, according to former President Thabo Mbeki, “helps us rediscover and claim the African heritage for the benefit of especially our young generations”. 

In his State of the Nation Address on the 11th February 2011, President Zuma emphasized the need to build a national democratic and cohesive society. Teaching about the national symbols and national orders not only promotes national identity and pride, but helps to build understanding, tolerance and reconciliation that are so vital in our fight against racism, xenophobia and other social ills.

Our Government has accepted Nation Building and Social Cohesion as an important outcome for the 2014/2019 MTSF.

Many of our people have played special roles in ensuring that our young democracy’s first 20 years are a success. These people, through their varied skills and expertise have been at the forefront in transforming our country in ways that left a feeling of pride and unity amongst all South Africans. 

Some have excelled in sports, arts, conservation, business and leadership that have all “helped to boost our social cohesion and unity”. The exhibition highlights such people and it is a fitting tribute that we have some of these people with us today as we honour their roles in ensuring that our 20 years of democracy have brought us success in many fronts. We need to learn from such heroes and heroines so that we can build on these successes as we move forward to develop sustainable cohesive communities for our country.

As a lead Department in the promotion of nation building and social cohesion, the work of the entities of the Department is crucial if we are to succeed. Our programs and exhibitions should therefore talk to the needs and challenges that our people face as we strive to build inclusive heritage that honour the heroes of the struggle that delivered the freedom and democracy we enjoy today.

This necessitates the need for our entities to be active leaders in the promotion, preservation and transforming the arts, culture and heritage landscape so that it contributes to job creation and social cohesion.

The initiatives that have led to the Democracy Exhibition profile the unselfish role of our unsung heroes and heroines that made these twenty years of our democracy so successful.

These heroes and heroines have laid a solid foundation for us to move forward to tackle the remaining inequities that continue to hinder socio-economic development and inclusive communities.

While we achieved our Freedom with the dawn of democracy in 1994, the challenges of the past, rampant poverty, diseases and crime still hold many of our people at ransom and deny them the independence they need to enjoy their Freedom.

Our government has committed itself to ensuring that programs like the National Development Plan address the challenges of socio-economic development as a way to enhance our freedom and promote nation building and social cohesion.

In the same vein that we address political challenges, were are mindful of the need to create economic opportunities for our people that will further enhance their independence and advance our democracy beyond these first twenty years.

The fight for freedom left many wounds that still need to be healed even as we celebrate 20 years of democracy. Our resolve as a people, as a nation is to ensure that those wounds are healed so that all could enjoy the fruits of freedom and democracy. The Democracy exhibition teaches us about respecting each other’s rights as enshrined in our Constitution.

Former president Mandela once said “for to be free is not merely to cast off one’s chains, but to live in a way that respects and enhances the freedom of others”.

Museums play a very significant role in the conservation and promotion of cultural and natural heritage to ensure that communities understand and celebrate their heritage. The Democracy Exhibition that will be opened today fits properly within the Department of Arts and Cultures’ mandate to identify and preserve the country’s history and heritage.

The profile and history of freedom heroes and heroines, especially local ones and their contribution to freedom in our country could have never been told at a better time than during our country’s 20 years of freedom and democracy. We tend to look beyond ourselves for role models and heroes and heroines, thus failing the selfless contribution that our own people have played in their communities.

The Month of August highlights another significant milestone in the history of our country. The birth of democracy has given many opportunities for women to make meaningful contribution to society. While the Democracy Exhibition highlights this role, there is still a long way to go. We need to create a conducive environment that allows women to further participate in our country’s socio-economic development and nation building.

Apart from government efforts, any initiative that helps inspire debate and progress on issues affecting women should be encouraged, such as the South African Women's Arts Festival taking place at Durban's Playhouse from 22 to 30 August 2014. This festival combines all the elements of arts and entertainment with a compelling focus on women in our new democracy and is worthy of strong public support.

As the father of our nation, Tata Mandela remarked in 1996 that “as long as out-modelled ways of thinking prevent women from making meaningful contribution to society, progress will be slow. As long as the nation refuses to acknowledge the equal role of more than half of itself, it is doomed to failure”.

The exhibition should therefore act as an inspiration to more women to work hard in various ways that promote our nation building and social cohesion.

The challenge we face as a society is the process of building our nation out of a vast cultural and economic legacy of difference and inequality.

The National Development Plan responds to five key priorities, namely (1) Inclusive social and economic development; (2) sustainable investment and growth; (3) Decent jobs and sustainable livelihoods (4) A capable developmental state, and (5) Expanding opportunities.

As part of Mzansi Golden Economy we have begun a process of transforming the Arts sector to encourage and support pro-poor innovations necessary to equip citizens, especially youth, with theoretical and experiential knowledge.

Over the next five years, we shall be piloting several creative arts incubators across the country. These will be the hotbeds for cultural entrepreneurship and democratise access to tools of production. These will be the sites that we encourage as government for the creation of local content.

These creative arts incubators will be located in community arts centres, in cultural precincts and villages which position the creative sector at the centre of cultural life and economic development.

In conclusion the Democracy Exhibition also shows us how far our museums have come in demonstrating a changing role and quest to collect and display materials that best represent the lives of our people.

For as Sir Seretse Khama said: “A country without a history is a country without a soul”, museums are “windows to the nation’s soul” and this is indeed an apt description.

Museums have always been places where aspects of the world in which we live, which contributes to our collective soul, are researched, stored for perpetuity and made available to the public. Recently museums have become agents of social change thus being ideal structures to promote nation building and social cohesion for economic development.

DID YOU KNOW THAT:

The KZN Museum has Collections of pottery and domestic animal remains from settlements established by African farmers in KwaZulu-Natal as early as 400 AD (these farmers produced tools and weapons using local Iron resources)?

For by teaching us about the past and successes achieved they help us to shape our future destination.

The democracy exhibition assists us to reclaim our identity, our culture, our history and our dignity.

Our collective response to the challenges we have faced during the first 20 years of democracy will define how as a nation we succeed in the fight against diseases, poverty and many social ills so that we can unlock the vast opportunities that our country has in order to create sustainable communities that are necessary for the promotion of nation building and social cohesion.

Let us continue to tell a good story and make South Africa a better place to live!

I declare the democracy exhibition officially open.

I thank you.