Statement by Minister Mthethwa at Heritage Month Launch, Freedom Park Pretoria
Those of us who live and work in South Africa today are the heirs of everything that the struggle was fought for over the last three centuries.
As we celebrate 20 years of democracy and freedom, let us remind ourselves that for the first time in over 300 years the people of this beautiful country have only lived and known peace in the last two decades.
Thus we invite all our people to pause this special September to ponder the changes that South Africa has experienced since the dawn of the new era.
It is indeed true that various sectors of our society have stories to tell about the progress made since 1994 in redefining our historical experiences and thus reimagining the heritage landscape.
When the former President Nelson Mandela emerged as the first democratically elected leader in 1994, this marked a clean break with colonialism if a special type. We as a society embarked on a journey to build a non-racial, non-sexist, non-creedal, non-tribal society in South Africa as envisaged in the Freedom Charter. This is the greatest heritage that has left for our children and mankind as a whole.
Our Constitution, which guarantees all South Africans equality before the law is highly respected and it is the envy and some say the pride of the world. It is part of a living heritage that has bestowed our artists, the media and citizens in general freedom of expression in which everybody in the country can express their thoughts, ideas views and opinions without any fear of detention, imprisonment or banishment.
This can be done in any language of choice as our Constitution recognized 11 official languages that reflect our diversity. In the area of arts, culture and heritage, the new political dispensation has produced policies and legislations that provide enabling frameworks for the preservation, protection, dissemination and promotion of our cultural heritage. In a manner unprecedented in the history of this country, we have seen archives, community arts centres, libraries, monuments, memorials and archives being built in the most remote areas of our country.
This is an attempt by government to take services to the people of South Africa regardless of their location. We are moving forward to ensure that information is no longer the preserve of the few urban citizens. It is also an attempt to ensure that the appreciation of our cultural heritage happens in all localities.
After 1994 the democratic dispensation, after much deliberation, decided to embark on implementing the Legacy Projects. This is to ensure an equitable distribution of Heritage Monuments, museums, plaques, outdoor art, heritage trails and other symbolic representations to create visible reminders of, and commemorate, the many aspects of South Africa’s past regarding the history of the majority is celebrated.
A significant part of our heritage in the last 20 years has been efforts to redefine our new national identity as we shed the legacy of the imperial and colonial past. This was evident when the new flag was designed; the new national anthem was negotiated with potent symbolism of reconciling previously irreconcilable anthems as a gesture of reconciliation. It is a great achievement that this has been embraced by the majority of the people.
Another milestone in our cultural landscape was the conceptualization and the design of the new national coat of arms with a rich meaning and symbolism.
Also, we have the new national orders, which are the highest insignia awarded to South African and world citizens who have distinguished themselves, in shaping the history of our country. It is important to note that these underwent profound transformation by interpreting them using particularly and prominently our indigenous knowledge systems.
As we acknowledge and consider the heritage of what has been bestowed us in the last 20 years, let us not forget that the history of our country has for centuries been narrated and thus seen through the prisms of white colonial rule.
The advent of democracy and freedom has brought about profound changes and thus liberated voices that have been in silence for centuries and decades.
South Africans are now able to tell stories about their trials and tribulations during the dark days of apartheid. They are able to identify without fear those they regard as sung and unsung heroes and heroines. They are also able to relate stories about events, historical epochs that were watershed moments and game changers in the evolution of the South African society.
The envisaged Liberation Heritage Route is one of the initiatives that are designed to provide a comprehensive story about the struggles that were waged by our people in quest for their freedom and liberation.
Various Heritage sites and infrastructures in South Africa are named after the Liberation Struggle icons. The Sol Plaatjie Municipality in the Northern Cape; The Nelson Mandela Museum in the Eastern Cape; Luthuli House in Gauteng; King Shaka Airport in KwaZulu Natal; O R Tambo International Airport in Gauteng Province; Bram Fischer International Airport in Free State; Tshwane Municipality in Gauteng; Steve Biko Memorial in the Eastern Cape and many others.
In addition to these, other liberation struggle heroes in the fields such as theatre, literature, music, labour movements includes Rahima Moosa, Bessie Head, Frances Baard, Ruth First, Olive Schreiner and the list is endless.
South Africa also acknowledges the support and solidarity provided by its neighbouring States during the era of oppression and there are Heritage Sites and Infrastructures named after these iconic African leaders. The Samora Machel Monument at Mbuzini in Mpumalanga and the Kenneth Kaunda District Municipality in the North West are some of the examples.
Thus the theme for this year will serve as a social mobilizer to encourage various sectors of the society to identify the need to reconnect with the past in order to shape the direction of the future. Such sectors will include youth, women, people living with disabilities, students, learners, civil society, religious and cultural fraternities, non-governmental organizations trade unions, business and recreation and sport fraternities.
The theme will also serve to help entrench nation building and social cohesion in South Africa as it can be seen as a call to action, to encourage all South Africans in all spheres of life to be heard and make their contribution to the common South African story. It says that everyone counts and plays his or her part of a shared South African experience. In this way it seeks to promote an active citizenry as envisaged in the National Development Plan in shaping the nation’s narrative.
Also and most critically, the manner in which we opt to preserve and communicate these collective memories to younger generations will determine the type of society envisaged. And the envisaged type of society for South Africa is that which represents the rainbow nation, and promotes unity and social cohesion among diverse sectors of the South African public.
It is important that as we celebrate 20 years of democracy we create a platform for individuals across the political spectrum and background are given platform to tell their stories. Some of these stories are preserved through oral history and storytelling, poems, short stories, novels, music, performing and visual arts etc.
It is my honour and privilege to announce that Cabinet has approved this year’s theme to be “celebrating 20 years of democracy: Tell your story that moves South Africa Forward”.
Our rich cultural heritage finds expression in the diversity of our religious beliefs, all of which define who we are and contribute in shaping our society. This heritage is also the epicenter of our ongoing efforts to promote social cohesion, nation-building and reconciliation.
This heritage binds us together towards a common national identity. As we progress on the journey of building an inclusive and caring society, we remain guided by the Preamble of our Constitution which derives its essence from the Freedom Charter.
The National Department of Arts and Culture together with its provincial sister departments as well as associated institutions are mandated to ensure that Cultural Heritage is preserved, promoted and used as a vehicle to foster nation building, inclusive citizenship, economic development and social cohesion. These institutions are also encouraged to assist the department in identifying individuals with stories to tell in their areas of jurisdiction.
Amongst the projects that have been identified by the department to tell the story during heritage month are the Nat Nakasa JB Marks and Moses Kotane projects.
These symbolic projects are part of the Legacy Projects and provide the nation with an opportunity to learn about their personal struggles, circumstances around them leaving this country, life in exile, how they died, the impact and influence they had for the liberation of our country.
We shall seek to raise the consciousness of our people through the Liberation Heritage Route to trace the story of our struggle throughout the country and continent. We shall work in partnership with the National Heritage Council and all relevant stakeholders.
We will also establish a Heroes Acre to locate our legends. It will tell the story of our great forbears who led the heroic struggle against colonialism, apartheid and other ailments of the nation.
In fact, literature will play a pivotal role in promoting, protection and preservation of our heritage. Thus promoting a culture of reading and writing will be very central in understanding our heritage.
Thus today we mark the beginning of National Book Week that starts on 01 - 07 September 2014.
Mahikeng Heritage Campaign
We will launch the Mahikeng Heritage campaign at Rooigront Prison situated in the Mahikeng Local Municipality within Ngaka Modiri Molema District. The location chosen for this campaign is a heritage site because of its historical importance to the country.
Ratlou Heritage Campaign
On 11-12 September we plan to have a heritage campaign in Ratlou Local Municipality and the chosen place is Setlhwatlhwe Heritage Site. It is a sacred site that needs a whole lot of traditional consultations and engagement in order to conduct some activities at.
The Reburial of Nat Nakasa
The remains of Nat Nakasa will be buried formally on the 13th September in Durban with the President presiding. The Family, friends and Media Fraternity will also be present.
The repatriation of Nakasa after 50 years marks a turning point in the redefinition and role of journalists, writers and the media in South Africa. His story provides a perfect platform for us to examine ourselves to engage in constructive national discourse.
Kgosi Suping Ceremony
This will be a traditional symbolic ceremony dedicated to Kgosi Suping who was the first Chairpersons of the National House of Traditional Leaders. The Department of Cooperate Governance and Traditional Affairs has earmarked this project to honour Kgosi Suping at Supingstadt for his contribution in shaping the involvement, contribution and relevance of traditional leadership which is an indigenous practice of political history of the African Peoples.
Ditsobotla Heritage Campaign
As part of its mandate the Museums and Heritage Unit is planning to embark on a heritage campaign in Itsoseng township in the Ditsobotla region. The purpose of the campaign is to engage our communities on issues of heritage management, benefits through heritage tourism as well as ownership.
Book Launch (Chiefs, Land & Mining)
There will be a book launch of a book, “Chiefs, Land and Mining in the North West Province” to take place on 30 September 2014.
The book traces and details the legacy of mining and how forced removals led to mushrooming of resistant movements across the province.
Main Event Heritage Day 24th September
Finally, the Department of Arts and Culture in conjunction with the Presidency and the Provincial Government of North West will host the main event to celebrate Heritage Day at James Motlatsi Stadium in Klerksdorp.
Other Provinces will be organising Heritage Day celebrations too. The President of the Republic of South Africa will be invited to give a keynote address at the main event in North West.
Oral History Conference
But celebrating our heritage will continue beyond heritage month. Thus the Department of Arts & Culture will again host the 11th National Oral History Programme for South Africa from the 14 to 17 October. The theme for this year’s conference is “Reconsidering the post-apartheid moment: Oral History and the Politics of Transformation”.