Speech by Minister Nathi Mthethwa at the book launch Freedom Park: A Place of Healing

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21 Jul 2015

We are gathered this evening at the foremost institution to celebrate the telling of the story of our development as a people and a country.

What brings us together tonight are efforts to tell our own stories and write our own history that contributed to human development and growth.

In fact, the launch of this book is part of a slow but sure effort to bring together all the information, knowledge and self-understanding accumulated through the many long struggling generations of the past.Those of us who live and stand here tonight, especially  at this event, are the heirs of all that has been done to tell our own story and write our own history as we know it.

Tonight is a small but giant leap in our journey to tell the story of how we have struggled to improve ourselves, our country and, as a result, the whole world.It is a journey, a story, a history that is inexhaustible as it is about all that our ancestors, our forebears have ever dreamed of, thought out, fought and died for.

We are truly blessed tonight to be among the scholars, writers, intellectuals, researchers, academics and thinkers who have taken it upon themselves to write eloquently and express themselves articulately in a way that will provide guidance to future generations.

Today we are faced with what is probably the greatest challenge our country has ever known.  We know as we gather here that it is only in the last 21 years that African people are beginning to rediscover their hidden history and clear the uncertainty over their correct identity.

For over three centuries, our people could not know for sure where they come from.

Our history and heritage as Africans – the cradle of humankind and the founders of ancient civilizations – was almost wiped off the face of the earth.  Where do African people go to find the rich deposits of inspiration, pride and self-love left behind by those who came before us?

There has never been a time when our creative intellectuals were free to nourish the souls of a people desperate for self-knowledge and understanding than here and now.

I believe this book will give them some hope and self-love and restore peace of mind. It marks the beginning of self-knowledge and understanding that are the beginning of wisdom.For the first time in over three centuries, we have established a spiritual place that captures the spirit of the tried and tested. We are – through our empowering self-knowledge – moving the country forward.

This book is about such a place that gives a sense of history that will give fresh perspectives and insights about where we are going.

It is only when you know who you are and where you come from that you can move into the future with confidence.

This book is beginning to provide us with the staggering wealth of ideas and ideals that have come down from our history. It is a book that provides an intuitive link between the past, present and future.

The purpose of this book is to satisfy the urgent need to preserve and transmit the best that African men, women and children have done – at great personal risk – to give the world a human face.

It has, indeed, been a long walk to freedom.

Today South Africa is a microcosm of the world, giving hope to all people in this country, continent and the world.

This book will help meet the need for self-knowledge and self-understanding that has seen so many of our children and youth look outside their own history and heritage for leadership and guidance.

This is a distillation of the best writing and inspiring ideas and ideals that have come down through the ages.

We know that Freedom Park stands as a living treasure to tell the story of where we come from.

Also, it is a monumental testament to the achievement and celebration of our democracy and freedom.

This book is about one of the first and most important heritage sites to be built in the post-colonial age following the collapse of apartheid.

It tells the story of a place that symbolizes an end as well as a new beginning for our progress as a society.

In fact, to those who are familiar with our conflicted past and history of oppression, it signifies a renewal as well as a change.

The publication of this book is a significant development in telling our own stories and writing our own history. It is part of our new nation building effort to look at ourselves through fresh eyes.

Many of the known and unknown heroes who are memorialized in this institution are men and women who committed with their lives. They paid the ultimate prize for us to be able to enjoy the democracy and freedom we have today.

They are smiling with pride tonight as they witness this launch.

Through the launch of this very important book, we are beginning to look at ourselves through our own eyes and not those of colonialists.

We dedicate the launch of this book to all the heroes and heroines in this country and the rest of the world who sacrificed in many ways and surrendered their lives so that we could be free.

This is an important occasion to remind us that we are the first heirs, in this the beginning of the third decade of democracy and freedom.

We are the ones that our forebears dreamed of and fought for.

The word that should go forth from the launch of this book that our time has come. We are telling our stories and writing our own stories.

We now all have to be agents of the transformation of our society to being just and equal as desired by our ancestors.

The recent #RhodesMustFall movement is a desperate cry for self-knowledge among African youth. They wish to see themselves in the imagery that punctuates the country.

There is an urgent need for a radical transformation of our heritage landscape.

This place and this book is a grim reminder that that there are many who paid the ultimate price, carried a heavy burden and triumphed over every form of hardship to ensure that we obtain democracy and freedom in the country.

As a result, we the living who are beneficiaries must pledge to our political, cultural and spiritual ancestors that we shall remain faithful and loyal to their ideals and principles, united in our diversity.  Let us tell our stories and write our own history.