As we gather at this historic occasion we continue to draw inspiration from the preamble of our Constitution which enjoins us to heal the divisions of the past and lay the foundations for a democratic and open society in which government is based on the will of the people and every citizen is equally protected by law, improve the quality of life of all citizens and free the potential of each person.
The unveiling and commemoration of Mme Makwena Matlala’s Burial and Memorial site happens just on the eve of Heritage Month.
This year’s theme is “Our indigenous knowledge, our heritage: Towards the identification, promotion and preservation of South African’s living heritage.”
We convey our deepest gratitude to the family, Kgoshigadi Matlala, Bakone Traditional Council and community members of GaMatlala for allowing us to honour, Mme Makwena Matlala, the first African woman to be banished for opposing betterment policies imposed by the apartheid government through the Native Affairs Department.
In line with provisions of the National Heritage Resources Act 25 (1999), the South African Heritage Resources Agency (SAHRA), which is an agency of the Department of Arts and Culture, identified the grave of Makwena Matlala as a grave of cultural significance.
This is because of her contribution to the struggle against the apartheid government policies and because her grave is a royal grave.
The subsequent process culminated in the restoration and rehabilitation as well as the erection of the memorial and the protection of her grave as a heritage resource.
Themed: “Remembering the Forgotten, Honouring Victims of Political Banishment in South Africa”, the focus of this project at the moment will be in areas where a large number of people were banished, particularly on the restoration and rehabilitation of the graves as well as the erection of memorial sites of the traditional leaders (Regent Chieftainess Mme Makwena Matlala – GaMatlala, Limpopo; Chief Jeremiah Mabe – Mabieskraal, North West and Chief Paulus Howell Mopeli – Witzieshoek, Free State).
Our Government, through the Department of Arts and Culture will continue to implement programmes that reflect the transformation of the heritage landscape of the country to ensure that it truly represents the diversity of our society.
The restoration and rehabilitation of the graves as well as the erection of memorial sites forms part of the Liberation Heritage Route programme of the Department of Arts and Culture which seeks to link all liberation heritage sites in South Africa, the SADC region and the entire Africa continent.
Our rich liberation heritage must be used to draw visitors or enable tourism to South Africa thus providing opportunities for jobs and economic development.
Through the Liberation Heritage Route we continue to enhance the aspirations of the African Union Agenda 2063 “The Africa We Want”, particularly aspiration 5 which speaks of promoting an African identity and cultural values.
This should provide support to all the other aspirations because to address the economic, social and political challenges requires a rootedness in Africa, a heightened African consciousness and an internationalism where indeed we are all seen as part of a great African family.
The unveiling and commemoration of Mme Makwena Matlala’s Burial and Memorial site culminates the Women’s Month. It is in this month that we commemorate the lives of women, past and present whose contribution continues to build our country.
It is the undeniable selfless contribution and sacrifices of women who endured persecution by the apartheid government that South Africa is liberated, today.
Perhaps less acknowledged is the contribution made by rural women in the struggle for freedom and democracy. Today we commemorate and remember the life of an unsung heroine, Mme Makwena Matlala, a regent Chieftainess who stood firm against betterment policies of the apartheid government, for a free, democratic, non-sexist, non-racial and prosperous South Africa.
We are told that in response to the notice of her banishment, Mme Makwena Matlala, uttered these words:
“I, Makwena, will not go and stay in a house that I did not build, a house that I did not labouron… and I will not leave my own house. Above all I do not intend to move from my home, as I have never been out of Matlala’s Reserve before”.
Our heritage is part of the South African story and pride. Together we can foster a shared national consciousness that embraces our vibrant culture and heritage.
I thank you.