Media Statement by Minister Nathi Mthethwa on the resolutions of the national consultative meeting on the Transformation of Heritage Landscape

Printer-friendly versionSend by emailPDF version
22 Apr 2015

Programme Director

Honorable members of all political parties in Parliament

Representatives from community organizations

Government representatives,

Members of the Media

Ladies and gentlemen.

I am happy that you have joined us on what will mark a turning point in how we deal with the matter of colonial history and other cultural symbols in our country.

The last few weeks have seen our country gripped in turmoil as deep rumbles of discontent with colonial statues threatened to plunge us into a deep political crisis.

But this has been worsened by the explosion of anger, violence and murder as some sections of our populations have waged an unnecessary war against fellow Africans and other immigrants who live among us.

We wish to make it known to the culprits that as the Government of the Republic, we find this kind of behavior morally reprehensible and condemn it in the strongest terms. It is not in line with our Constitutional values. We believe South Africa belongs to all who live in it.

In less than a week we shall host Freedom Day celebration to mark 21 years of democracy and freedom in our beautiful.

This would not have been possible without the material support and solidarity of African countries and their people. They were there for us during our time of need. We remain thankful to the governments of African countries and their people for all the cooperation and support that they offered to make our liberation possible.

In fact, we extend our invitation to them to join us at our celebrations at the Union Buildings.

However, we are gathered here today because last Friday a national consultative meeting passed resolutions to chart the way forward on how we will deal with the sensitive and emotive matter of colonial symbols and other cultural sites as we move our country towards a brighter future.

It is the time for us to make the transformation of our heritage landscape a reality that speaks to our dream of reclamation, restoration and reconciliation.

We will recall that in 1999, a great South African son of the soil in whose steps we follow today presided over the first democratically elected government. They signed into law legislation that guides us on how to deal with this sensitive and emotive matter. The National Heritage Resources Act of 1999.

The legislation was signed by our first President Nelson Mandela.

As we celebrate 21 years of democracy and freedom, the time has come for us to pause and ponder how much we have done to effect or implement the law that desired for us to work together in peace as we dealt with our past.

No one can deny that there is too much of the past in our present. The consultative meeting agreed that we want a present that reflects the future.

But I must emphasize that it is not true that the government or the country has been caught on the back foot by the issue of colonial symbols and heritage transformation. We have always been ready and welcome the developments that have galvanized our society, especially the students and youth, to be active citizens and change makers for transformation.

The Act was passed in 1999 to outline structures and process that need to be followed, especially the holding of consultative meetings that will take into consideration the sentiments and view of everyone affected by heritage and other cultural symbols.

In a significant development that echoes those sentiments and views inherent in the legislation, the national consultative meeting at Freedom Park last Friday emphasized various strategic pillars to resolve the issue of colonial symbols to transform our heritage landscape.

These are:

  •  Task Team: Urgent establishment of a Task Team.

This will ensure the acceleration of the process of identification, consultation and relocation of statues for a period of between minimum of three years and a maximum of not more than five years.

  • Monitoring & Evaluation Unit:  This will exercise and oversight role to ensure that objectives are met, requisite processes are followed and complied with.
  •  Awareness Campaign: We will launch of a vigorous public education and awareness creation campaigns.

For instance, retained or changed names should be accompanied by public education campaigns about chosen names or symbols.

  • Forum for Public Dialogue: Emphasis on public dialogue and consultative processes to engage legal structures
  • Conduct an Audit: Conduct an audit of existing names, symbols and site to identify those that are considered as offensive. These should be changed within a specified period.

In the instances where, after an audit and consultation, there may be a need for disposal of some of the symbols and statues. These should also be guided by a disposal policy than an uncoordinated and unguided discretionary disposals.

A need for a comprehensive audit of all symbols, names and statues across the society in order to have an inventory that gives a sense of what exists and where these are and the categories of these in order to inform a process of speedy and yet well-informed transformation process.

  • Theme Parks: Construction of a historical theme park to give a detailed history and narrative of the evolution of the South African society. Strong emphasis should be placed on foregrounding African civilization, history and influential figures.

Establish Memorial Historical Theme Parks for Statues arranged and curated for a narrative, historical, education and themed interpretation.

These parks will be established at local, provincial and national levels. They should be declared as heritage sites for future management and protection.

  • Capacity Building: review and build the capacity of regulatory bodies at all levels of government.
  • Heroes Acre: Identify leaders who fought for liberation and or contributed to the building of a new society.

Above all, a special program must be established to celebrate African history on a continental scale to affirm African identity as an anti-dote for South African “exceptionalism.

We must conduct an intra-African dialogue to promote multi-cultural consciousness.

A special attention should be placed on the Khoi and San people.

  • Non-Partisan Criteria: Encourage a recognition process that goes beyond political figures to include other change makers who contributed to nation building.

Monuments established will be inclusive to represent more than individuals or a particular culture.

Places of national or international importance should be subjected to a national consultative process than those in local municipalities for change or review.

That transformation of the heritage landscape should preferably be informed and replaced by all inclusive symbols or themes such as justice, youth, women, peace and reconciliation.

  • Social Cohesion Summit Resolution: Revisit and review work done on implementation of this significant historical event of 2012 in Kliptown.
  • Curriculum Transformation: Departments of Basic Education, Higher Education and Arts & Culture should interact and coordinate transformation and review of curriculum.

This will include the introduction of National Symbols to schools to reflect on the journey of transformation.

There is a need for school curriculum change to adequately reflect South African history and heritage in all its diversity and complexity.

It should fill us with great pride that we have come with a unanimous agreement as a national consultative meeting. This moves our society forward.

There is every reason to believe that the resolutions provide us with yet another opportunity to show that we are a society that believes in dialogue and other forums of constructive engagement.

We are determined to redefine our identity and reshape our heritage landscape in a manner that expresses our Constitutional values, ideal and principles.