Speech by Deputy Minister Rejoice Mabudafhasi during the official opening of the Vlakfontein Library at Sephako Village, Elias Motsoaledi Local Municipality
MEC for Sport, Arts and Culture, Mme Nandi Ndalane;
Your Worship the Executive Mayor of Sekhukhune District Municipality, Cllr. Magabe;
Your Worship the Mayor of Elias Motsoaledi, Cllr Mathebe;
Members of the media;
Members of the community;
Ladies and gentlemen
Our Government has declared the month of March as Human Rights Month and subsequently March 21 Human Rights Day to honour those who fought for our liberation and the rights that we enjoy today.
It is in this month that we also commemorate the National Library Week from 13 to 21 March wherein all types of libraries across the country use it as an opportunity to market their services in an effort to contribute to the understanding of the important role that libraries play in a democratic society, advancing literacy, making the basic human right of freedom of access to information a reality, and to promote tolerance and respect among all South Africans.
In his speech during the youth engagement at Harare Library in Khayelitsha, the Deputy President of the Republic of South Africa, Cyril Ramaphosa, said
“For an individual, reading opens up new worlds, reveals new ideas and suggests new opportunities.
For a nation, reading is a gateway to a different, better future. A winning nation actively promotes reading.”
Last week, I was invited to speak at the Riyadh International Book Fair in Saudi Arabia. Books are integral in fostering understanding of each other’s histories, cultures and languages. Reading and writing have no boundaries.
Through libraries we are creating an enabling environment for a flourishing reading nation and a wider audience for South African literature.
We are inspired by the conviction that a widespread culture of reading would create a more knowledgeable society, contribute to the acquisition of skills and advance the contribution of the book industry in our economy.
I am delighted to part of this historic opening of the Vlakfontein Library which heralds a new era of reading in Sephako village and surrounding communities.
The findings of the research conducted by the South African Book Development Council indicated that only 14% of South Africans are active book readers and a mere 5% of parents read to their children. It further indicated that 51% of households in South Africa did not have a single book in their home.
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.
It is against this backdrop that the Department of Arts and Culture decided to invest R3 billion on the library infrastructure across the country through the Community Library Conditional Grant.
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. The Vlakfontein Library was built as a result of the Community Library Conditional Grant allocation for Limpopo province.
Today, the Sephako community is a living example of a society advocated in the National Development Plan wherein each community has:
Ø A school
Ø Teachers who love teaching and learning
Ø A local library filled with a wealth of knowledge
Ø A librarian
By building library infrastructure we are merely laying the foundation for a thriving reading culture.
I encourage the community to look after this library and guard jealously against anything that might threaten to damage or vandalise it.
Let me end by thanking the MEC of Sport, Arts and Culture, Mme Nandi Ndalane for extending an invitation to me to be part of this historic moment.
An African proverb says that:
“Until lions have their own historians, tales of the hunt shall always glorify the hunter”.
The stories of South Africa are many and diverse, and collectively they tell the story of our entire nation.
They empower us and inspire us to be authors too, be able to rewrite our history correctly that was at times distorted. They also teach us lessons about the past to better arm us for the future.
These stories reside in libraries. They are their homes and part of their homecoming.
I thank you.