Ms Veliswa Baduza on behalf of Minister Xingwana at the Flag Handover Ceremony
Programme Director, Mohamed Shaikh,
Former Deputy President FW De Klerk & Mrs. De Klerk,
Vice-Chancellor & Rector Prof. Russell Botman,
Mr. Giuseppe Ciucci, Chairperson of Stonehage Charitable Trust,
Academic & Administrative Staff & Students
Members of the Diplomatic Corps
Members of the Media
Ladies and Gentlemen,
I am delighted to be here at this very significant occasion.
We are here today to celebrate the return of an artefact symbolizing an important moment in our history.
The important moment of course was the inauguration of the first president of the Republic of South Africa, Mr Nelson Mandela.
And the treasure we are receiving today is the flag that flew on that historic day when former President Mandela told us and the world that the sun would never set on so glorious human an achievement. President Mandela signed this flag, together with former Deputy President Thabo Mbeki and former Deputy President F W de Klerk.
On this occasion, then President Mandela declared (and I quote):
“Out of the experience of an extraordinary human disaster that lasted too long, must be born a society of which all humanity will be proud.
Our daily deeds as ordinary South Africans must produce an actual South African reality that will reinforce humanity's belief in justice, strengthen its confidence in the nobility of the human soul and sustain all our hopes for glorious life for all.”
President Mandela’s words were an extraordinary and impassioned statement and a rallying cry for all South Africans, irrespective of race, to come together, to walk tall and build a new country.
He told us that:
“The time for the healing of the wounds has come.
The moment to bridge the chasms that divide us has come.
The time to build is upon us.
We have, at last, achieved our political emancipation. We pledge ourselves to liberate all our people from the continuing bondage of poverty, deprivation, suffering, gender and other discrimination.”
For Nelson Mandela we were indeed and should strive to be “a rainbow nation at peace with itself and the world.”
President Mandela called for justice and an enduring peace and who can ever forget his pledge that concluded this speech:
“Never, never and never again shall it be that this beautiful land will again experience the oppression of one by another and suffer the indignity of being the skunk of the world.
Let freedom reign.
The sun shall never set on so glorious a human achievement!
God bless Africa!”
The nation was in the throes of euphoria and as Mandela concluded, it was as if his words resounded around the country and throughout the world.
It was as if he spoke through the centuries to all those fallen warriors who had lain their lives for their freedom, to all those freedom fighters who had fought for national liberation, to countless men and women who could not lived with injustice and protested against pass laws and all forms of discrimination.
We had made a successful transition to peaceful and democratic elections after a long dialogue, sleepless nights of discussions, debates, and much hard work and many sacrifices.
Mandela’s words inspired us and humanized us all and laid the foundations for our non-sexist and non-racial democracy.
This was a victory against racism in the world, a victory against inequality and the triumph of the human spirit and reconciliation.
It is in this context that as South Africans we ought to be very clear that this flag is important to us and is part of our heritage and should be in our care as a testimony to our collective journey as South Africans and as a symbol of our triumph over oppression.
Historical objects are very important to the history of each and every country. If one crucial piece of history is unaccounted for, it means that one piece of the historic puzzle is missing.
The Flag that is central to this function we are hosting today, would have landed somewhere else.
But thanks to a great South African patriot, Mr. Giuseppe Ciucci, Chairperson of the Stonehage Charitable Trust, this flag will now be accessible to South Africans.
Were it not for the intervention of Mr Ciucci this flag would have been lost to us all – it may have landed in private hands or in an institution in Europe or elsewhere – inaccessible to our own people and part of our cultural wealth and heritage that would no longer have been in our hands.
Yet national symbols in particular identify the Nation and locate it within the whole international community of nations.
We have seen that our national flag became the face of South Africa during the Soccer World Cup when it was displayed on cars, in streets, in shopping centres all over the country.
In this way the flag sought to unite people irrespective of cultural differences – we stood united as a people and as a nation and celebrated the unfolding of a successful event.
This year’s National Heritage Day celebrations was held in Durban on the 24th September at the Moses Mabhida Stadium with the theme “Celebrating 2010 FIFA Soccer World Cup Successes: our Heritage” and President Jacob Zuma addressed the nation and urged our people to become part of the building of a common heritage and common national identity.
On this occasion political leaders also presented their messages to the nation and our interfaith communities lead a thanksgiving prayer and service to give thanks for a successful World Cup.
President Zuma outlined the lessons learnt from the World Cup, the most important one being that “determination and unity of purpose are recipes and ingredients of success.”
He pointed out that:
“We also learned that the unity and cohesion of our communities are sources of strength and inspiration that can lead to greater achievements…We learned too, that it is possible to build a truly united and cohesive South African nation, focused on the goal of building a prosperous South Africa.”
“The fact that so many white South Africans, young and old, filled the stadiums to celebrate the soccer tournament, while black people flocked to the Orlando Stadium before the World Cup to celebrate rugby, shows that we have now begun to harness the potential for creating a common national identity.”
“We have to take these lessons forward. Our people taught us a lot, including that nobody must stereotype or pigeonhole South Africans. “
I would like to reiterate President Zuma’s words here today. It is our great patriotism that we need to take forward and our confidence in ourselves and a renewed consciousness of who we are as a people and what we can do together
I would like to request the university community to help us to take these lessons forward. The challenge moving forward is how to use this example of a people united in action as a living legacy to propel our people into the future - to be confident about our own abilities and to be proud of our history, to engage in a national dialogue, to build social cohesion and to honour our living human treasures.
On the 30 September the Department of Arts and Culture will also be hosting a public forum in Johannesburg where delegates will discuss and debate how we conceptualise national living human treasures and how we take this initiative forward.
I invite academics, intellectuals, heritage practitioners, artists and interested members of the public to be part of this important discussion about our heritage.
In conclusion, the Department of Arts and Culture is pleased today to receive this Flag on behalf of South Africans.
We are thankful to Mr. Giuseppe Ciucci for his unselfish gesture to secure this historical item for future generations.
It is with pleasure that I am handing this flag to the University of Stellenbosch so that it can be displayed at this beautiful University Gallery.
I hope that many students, young people and new generations, who were not yet born during that moment in our history, come and see this flag and learn about this foundational moment in the making of our nation, so that they too can protect this freedom and democracy. This flag must travel all over the country so that our youth see it and learn about our heritage. In the words of Mandela, let us ensure that the sun shall never set on so glorious a human achievement.
I thank you.