Speech delivered by Deputy Minister Mabudafhasi during the National Book Week Roadshow in Ganyesa Village, North West
The father of our nation, the late Tata Madiba, once said “If you talk to a man in a language he understands, that goes to his head. If you talk to him in his own language, that goes to his heart.”
It is in this month of September that South Africans both young and old commemorate our heritage united in our diversity. We should preserve, promote and cherish our heritage every day of our lives.
The 2014 Heritage Month theme: “Celebrating 20 years of Democracy: Tell your story that moves South Africa forward”, resonates very well with the National Book Week. Books are an important part of our heritage.
Earlier this morning, I visited Bore Middle School here in Ganyesa, to hoist our National Flag as part of the Department of Arts and Culture’s Flag in all Schools programme. The Department committed to spend close to R34 million to put flags in all schools to promote nation building, national identity and social cohesion.
This programme involves amongst others, hoisting of the National Flag, the singing of the National Anthem, the recital of the Preamble of the Constitution by the learners, distribution of the South African hand flags and publications on national symbols as well as the CD Tool Kit on how to sing the National Anthem.
Today officially marks the second day of the 2014 National Book Week under the theme: “Going Places”. The nation will be celebrating the Book Week until Sunday, 7 September. This is a major landmark in our strategy to promote a culture of reading and writing and cultivate a sustainable book industry that supports equitable development of all South African languages.
National Book Week was established as an annual reading promotion event in 2010.
In a space of five years, this campaign has established itself as the premier platform through which the government, the book sector, the media and the civil society establish dynamic partnerships for the promotion of a culture of reading and writing. It is through a collective effort that we can instil the love of reading and create a reading society in South Africa.
As we celebrate twenty years of freedom, we have a mandate to ensure that we accelerate our developmental strategies and reach out to all sectors of our society, especially rural areas. This year we have decided, for the first time in the history of National Book Week, not to have a specific host province for the campaign, but to embark on a roadshow where we visit different communities across the country.
Our road show entails a travelling bus which will transport ambassadors, motivational speakers, authors, storytellers and a toy library to provinces across the country with North West being one of them. We are also working with provinces that are not part of the current route, to ensure that there are satellite events in celebration of this special week.
Our strategic intervention in the sector is aligned with the objectives of the Mzansi Golden Economy (MGE) strategy, which among other things, aims to create an enabling environment for the mainstreaming of the arts sector as an important contributor to job creation, poverty reduction and skills development.
South Africa has 11 Official Languages. We are conscious of promoting the nine indigenous African languages to give equity to them and encourage people to write in these languages.
As the Department of Arts and Culture, we are committed to the preservation, development and promotion of South African literature in all its forms and genres. These initiatives are augmented by the presence of library infrastructure in the various communities.
Libraries play a pivotal role in giving communities access to reading material and are central in building a reading nation. As a country, we have inherited the legacy of thin distribution of library infrastructure, where libraries are located in the cities, thus depriving the vast majority of our population dwelling in rural areas.
It is against this backdrop that for the next three years, we will invest R3 billion on the library infrastructure. We will build libraries in communities that have limited access or do not have access at all to these facilities, and upgrade other existing structures.
By building library infrastructure we are merely laying the foundation for a thriving reading culture. Buildings do not go to the people. People must come to the buildings. This is where initiatives like National Book Week are most crucially needed.
We need sustainable initiatives that foreground libraries as paramount in the inculcation of reading as an integral part of human development.
The availability of local content and languages in our community libraries is fundamental in nation building.
This is one of the reasons today we will be donating some books to the community of Ganyesa. These books include titles like Bogosi Kupe by Rre Monyaise, Mathloko, Mathloko by R.M. Malope, Senkatana Mona Pela tsela by S.M. Mofokeng, Dintshontsho tsa Lorato by L.D. Raditladi, and many others across all the nine indigenous languages. These books were reprinted as part of the Reprint of Classics project, managed by the National Library of South Africa.
A book has the power to take you to different places, in different eras; it can motivate one and grow one’s knowledge. The importance of reading in order to achieve success is fundamental for individuals and essential for nation building and social cohesion.
In an attempt to uncover new talents and produce new material in indigenous languages, the Department of Arts and Culture in collaboration with the South African Book Development Council initiated the Indigenous Languages Publishing Programme (ILPP). The ILPP is aimed at publishing books, mainly by emerging writers, in all the nine indigenous languages.
We are grateful to the National Lottery Distribution Fund, which saw value in this initiative and pledged a substantial amount to give it more impetus.
We will donate a total of 9000 books out of this initiative as we visit different communities across the country.
As we celebrate twenty years of freedom, we have initiated a project where the public was given an opportunity to select outstanding stories that were published in the first two decades of our democracy.
The top twenty stories were then published in a collection entitled, Twenty in 20: The Best Short Stories of South Africa’s 20 years of Democracy. The chair of the judging panel, Mr Mandla Langa, describes the book as reflecting “the diversity that enriches our young democracy.” I am proud to say that I will be donating copies of this book as well.
A widespread culture of reading and writing will assist us as a nation to meet the demands of developing a knowledgeable society and advance the contribution of the book sector in the country’s economy. As the campaign ends on Sunday, our efforts of developing a reading nation should not stop there. Let us inculcate the culture of reading as an integral part of our daily lives.
As I conclude, I am reminded of the words of the late president of Tanzania, Dr Mwalimu Julius Kambarage, from his book Uhuru na Maendeleo (Freedom and Development), when he said:
“Intellectuals have a special contribution to make to the development of our nation, and to Africa. And I am asking that their knowledge, and the greater understanding that they should possess, should be used for the benefit of the society of which we are all members."
I would like to thank the North West Provincial Government, Kagisano-Molopo Local Municipality, the South African Book Development Council (SABDC), National Book Week ambassadors, for working together with us as we inculcate the culture of reading and writing moving South Africa forward.
Ke a leboga