Speech by Minister Paul Mashatile to the joint sitting of Parliament on occasion of the Heritage Month debate
Muchaviseki, Xipikara na Xandlaxa Xipikara Xa Palamente
Mutshamashitulo wa NCOP na Xandla xayena
Muchaviseki wa Riphabliki ra Afrika Dzonga, Phuresidente Jacob Zuma
Vaholobye na Swandla swa Vona
Vachaviseki, Swirho swa Palamente
Vavasati na Vavanuna
Ma Afrika Dzonga hikwavu
On this day, as we reaffirm our nation’s heritage, let us take this opportunity to pause, look back and reflect on who we are and where we come from, as South Africans.
Fellow South Africans, let me start by making the assertion that; we are a great people and we are building a great nation!
We are the children and grandchildren of President Nelson Mandela; a global icon of our liberation struggle, the founding father of our democratic nation and a symbol of hope to all those fighting for a just and equitable world order.
Up to this day, Tata Madiba remains an inspiration to all of us; inspiring us to work even harder towards the goal of one nation, one people; united in our diversity.
It is in keeping with the proud legacy of Tata Madiba and his generation of freedom fighters that today we are building a proud, caring and inclusive society, based on the values of Ubuntu, democracy, equality, selflessness and dignity for all.
As this generation of South Africans we will continue to uphold these values as we build the new South Africa, envisioned in the Freedom Charter.
As we mark the Centenary of the Union Buildings, in December this year, President Zuma will unveil the statue of Madiba at the Union Buildings. Ah Dalibunga! Ah Dalibunga!
Honourable Speaker, we are the descendants of Great Kings and Warriors.
We are the descendants of Soshangane; the descendants of King Shaka ka Senza Ngakhona, of King Mzilikazi, Khosi Moshoeshoe, King Makhado, King Hintsa and Kgoshi Sekhukhune.
We carry within us the blood of the great warrior Ngungunyane and Chief Bhambatha.
We are the descendants of Makana, David Stuurman and many others who fought gallantly against colonial aggression and domination. They imbued in us the spirit of no surrender!
We are the descendants of the Indian Indentured Labourers, who came to our country more than a hundred and fifty years ago and made a meaningful contribution in developing the industrial base of what is today KwaZulu-Natal.
We are the descendants of the Malay slaves, who up to this day continue to enrich our cultural and religious life.
We are the children and grandchildren of the migrant labourers who came from Lesotho, Mozambique, Malawi and many other parts of Southern Africa, to work in the mines; contributing immensely to making South Africa the biggest economy in Africa.
Let our message be loud and clear that throughout the Continent; we are one people!
The evolution of our society was also influenced by the early indentured labourers from China who today are part of the fabric of our cultural life.
Honourable Speaker, we are a resilient people. We defeated the settler colonialists whose motive was to take away the land from the indigenous people and strip them of their dignity. Yet today we cannot define them outside the history that makes us who we are, as a nation.
We have learnt to forgive, but not to forget.
Efforts are underway to reclaim and give back the land to the people and bring back their dignity.
Honourable Speaker, we are the Cradle of Humankind.
Evidence of early human life exists in Maropeng and the Sterkfontien Caves in Gauteng. There is also evidence of early human civilization in Ethiopia.
This confirms that Africa is indeed the Cradle of Humankind.
Honourable Speaker we originate from the Great Kingdom of Mapungubwe.
Long before the colonialists set foot on our shores we were already melting gold and trading with the world.
Today our country boasts no less than eight World Heritage Sites; the Robben Island, Ukhahlamba Drakensburg, Mapungubwe, Isimangaliso Wetlands, the Cape Flora region, Vredefort Dome, Maropeng, the Cradle of Humankind and the Richetersveld Cultural and Botanical Landscape.
Our ancestry is also that of the Khoi, the San, the Bushman and the Griqua, who suffered some of the worst brutal forms of oppression by colonialists; but are today standing tall as proud members of the South African nation.
We are the children and grandchildren of the survivors of the South African War; where both black and white South Africans lost life and limb, including women and children who perished in the concentration camps.
We are working together today to build a great nation!
As a nation we stand on the shoulders of giants such as Dr John Langalibalele Dube; Umafukuzela, Chief Albert Luthuli, Mahatma Gandhi, Pixley ka Isaaka Seme, Robert Sobukwe, Yusuf Dadoo, O.R. Tambo, Walter Sisulu, Steve Biko, Dr Beyers Naude, Bram Fischer and many others, who took over the baton of struggle from those brave African traditional leaders who led the wars of resistance.
They ushered in an era of greater unity, especially among Africans.
They were inspired by Pixley ka Isaka Seme who wrote:
“The demon of racialism, the aberrations of the Xhosa-Fingo feud, the animosity that exists between the Zulus and the Tongas, between the Basothos and every other Native must be buried and forgotten; it has shed among us sufficient blood! We are one people.”
Mmusa Kgotla, rona re tswalwa ke basadi bakileng ba tswara thipa kabohaleng; bo mme Charlotte Maxeke, Lillian Ngoyi, Mama Albertina Sisulu, Helen Suzman, Helen Joseph le Mme Rahima Moosa.
Some of these great women leaders are still with us today. They include Mama Winnie Madikizela Mandela, Mama Sophie De Bryn and Mme Ruth Mompati.
Malibongwe igama lamakhosikazi!
We are a young and energetic nation, inspired by the militancy of Chris Hani, Solomon Mahlangu and Peter Mokaba.
On this day, as we celebrate our heritage, we say to our young people; the future belongs to you, build it now.
Honourable Members, it is because of this rich and diverse history of the evolution of the South African society that our country is today a melting pot of various cultures and peoples.
Indeed it is to this rich and diverse history that we owe our uniqueness, our strength and our greatness as a nation.
It is this diverse history, now part of our nation’s heritage, that inspired the motto in our Constitution; !ke e: /xarra //ke; meaning Diverse People Unite!
The richness of our heritage is also reflected in the diversity of our languages; including the languages of the Khoi, the San, the Bushman and Griqua communities.
Today South Africa is proud to have eleven official languages; all of them being given equal opportunity.
As the ANC government, we have committed ourselves to developing the languages of the Khoi, the San, the Bushman and the Griqua, and have begun a process of designating them as part of our country’s official languages.
The richness of our heritage has also found expression in the diversity of our religious beliefs; all of which define who we are and contribute in shaping our society.
We are Christians, we are Muslims, we are Hindu, we are Jewish and we enjoy religious tolerance in our society.
Honourable Members, all of these are part of our collective heritage that we must reclaim, preserve and promote for current and future generations.
It is this collective heritage that must also be at the centre of our ongoing efforts to promote social cohesion, nation-building and reconciliation.
This heritage must bind us together towards a common national identity and a common South African consciousness.
Inspired by our rich, diverse and proud heritage, since 1994 we have made significant strides in building a truly united, non-racial, non-sexist, democratic and prosperous South Africa.
As we progress along this journey we are guided by the Preamble of our Constitution, which states that;
“We the people of South Africa; recognize the injustices of our past; honour those who suffered for justice and freedom in our land; respect those who have worked to develop our country; and believe that South Africa belongs to all who live in it, united in our diversity.”
This Preamble derives its essence from the Freedom Charter adopted in Kliptown in 1956; which states that; “South Africa belongs to all who live in it, black and white and that no government can justly claim authority unless it is based on the will of the people.”
Reclaiming, preserving and promoting our nation’s heritage is an integral part of this journey.
It is also part of our ongoing endeavours to build an inclusive society, a society we can all call home.
We continue to draw inspiration from those who came before us and the heritage they have left for us.
We have learned from our forebears that we are a great people, with extraordinary resilience.
Indeed we are a nation standing on the shoulders of great men and women. We are a nation that has triumphed over adversity.
We pride ourselves on our abundant talent and hard work.
This is shown by our achievements, for many years, in various fields of human endeavour such as in Science, in the Arts, in Sport and in Academia.
The hosting of Square Kilometre Array (SKA) project in the Northern Cape bears testimony to the progress we are making as nation in the field of Science.
As a result of this project, many people from across the world will descend on our shores to witness and learn from this great heritage to humanity.
Honourable Members, it is therefore important that we continue to reclaim, preserve and promote our heritage.
This we must also do as part of crafting a new and inclusive narrative of who we are as a nation and where we come from.
We must also do this so as to write the correct and complete history of our country.
This history must reflect the stories, sites, events, individuals and groups that are of significance to the cultural and historic life of all South Africans.
We are also reclaiming, preserving and promoting our heritage as part of building new and inclusive symbols reflective of the kind of society we seek to build.
Honourable Members it is this thinking that continues to inform the work we are doing on all our Heritage Legacy Projects.
It is also this thinking that informs our implementation of the Liberation Heritage Route and the Khoi and San Heritage Route.
Some of the projects we are currently undertaking in this regard include the construction of a National Heritage Monument
The Monument will feature, among others, the statues of some of our country’s greatest leaders located in a Heritage Park to be established in Tshwane.
In April next year we will be mounting the statue of Chief Bhambatha ka Mancisa in Grey Town, in Kwa-Zulu Natal.
All of this is in addition to the work we are doing to rename towns, streets and public buildings in honour of the heroes and heroines of our liberation struggle.
Among these is the renaming last year of the Bloemfontein Airport into Braam Fischer International Airport
Honourable Speaker, we are doing away with colonial names such as Kaffirsfontein that were meant to insult and denigrate our people.
As the President indicated we have already built and we will be building more new museums, monuments and commemorative sites that tell the story of our struggle for liberation.
These projects not only contribute to transforming the heritage landscape of our country; ensuring that it is inclusive; but also contribute towards social cohesion, reconciliation, nation building as well as local economic development and job creation.
Honourable Members, the task of reclaiming, preserving and promoting our nation’s heritage will form an important part of the celebrations of twenty years of Freedom and Democracy, next year.
As part of the build-up programme towards this milestone, we are calling on all South Africans to identify sites and individuals, mainly unsung heroes and heroines in their communities, who contributed to where we are today.
The stories contained in these sites and told by these individuals, are part of our nation’s heritage and therefore must be reclaimed, preserved and promoted.
Honourable Speaker, we are confident that; the work we are doing will go a long way in reaffirming who we are as nation.
It will, once more, deepen the inclusiveness of the society we seek to build.
It will correct the wrongs of the past and restore the dignity of all South Africans.
This work is never about obliterating the history and heritage of a particular section of our society.
It is never about affirming one section of society over another.
It is about reminding us that indeed we are a great nation, standing on the shoulders of great men and women; that our diversity is a source of strength rather than a source of weakness.
It reminds all of us as South Africans that we are our nation’s living heritage!
Fellow South Africans let us build on our proud heritage.
Let us use our heritage as a tool that teaches us that; what unites us far outweighs that which divides us.
Honourable President, I agree fully with you that; we have laid a firm foundation for a better future; that is prosperous and offers a better for all.
South Africa today is better than it was in 1994.
We continue to build a society where there will be neither tribes, nor ethnic groups, but just South Africans, united in their diversity.
We are one people, one nation.
!ke e: /xarra //ke!