Opening address by President Jacob Zuma on the occasion of the National Summit on Social Cohesion, Walter Sisulu Square of Dedication, Kliptown, Johannesburg

Printer-friendly versionSend by emailPDF version
04 Jul 2012

The Minister of Arts and Culture, Minister Paul Mashatile and all Ministers and Premiers present.
The Speaker of the National Assembly Max Sisulu
The Minister of Culture, Youth and Sports from South Sudan
Deputy ministers, members of Parliament and Provincial Legislatures
Mayors and councilors
Leaders of political parties
Leaders of civil society organisations
Representatives of Chapter 9 Institutions
Veterans of the South African struggle for national liberation
Members of the diplomatic corps
Members of the media
Fellow South Africans.

We are gathered as South Africans from all walks of life, for a crucial dialogue. We have come together to discuss how to bring to life, what our forebears left to us, a legacy that says this country belongs to all who live in it, black and white.

It was here in Kliptown, that the Congress of the People in 1955 declared boldly in the Freedom Charter, 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 all the people.

This clarion call by that generation of visionaries and freedom fighters was in direct contrast to the views of those who conceptualised and established the Union of South Africa in 1910. Those who established the Union did so in order to divide the people of South Africa along ethnic and racial lines, laying the basis for white minority domination.

The non-racial and shared future envisaged in the Freedom Charter has found expression in our country's Constitution whose preamble states, "We the people of South Africa, recognise the injustices of our past…. Believe that South Africa belongs to all who live in it, united in our diversity."

The motto in our National Coat of Arms, which means diverse people unite, also gives expression to our aspirations of a shared future that sees humanity as one and diversity as a source of strength. We were also here in Kliptown on Human Rights Day, 21 March and reaffirmed our commitment to our Constitution and the Bill of Rights which guarantees human rights for all.


We are also meeting here correctly during the month of July, which is known as Moral Regeneration Month. This is an initiative of the Moral Regeneration Movement to encourage and promote positive values and a caring society in our country. We are also meeting during a month known for its positive spirit and celebration, as in July we mark the legacy and birthday of our beloved President Nelson Mandela, the first president of a free and democratic South Africa.

When we celebrate Madiba we celebrate the triumph of the human spirit over adversity, the triumph of the powerful force of forgiveness over anger and retribution and the triumph of the spirit of loving our country and putting South Africa first in everything we do.

It's for this reason that this summit is convened under the theme, "Working together to create a proud and caring society". We are proud of the achievements we have scored in burying apartheid colonialism and building a new society. We are proud of the history of selflessness and the vision displayed by the founding leaders of our democracy.

Our illustrious leaders from 1912 said that despite the pain that apartheid colonialism imposed on us, we should, for the sake of this country and its future, try to find a way to live together in peace and harmony, and build one united nation. As we gather here, to develop a National Strategy on Social Cohesion and Nation Building, we felt that this was not a strategy that government should design alone.

It is a national effort that requires the views of many sectors and stakeholders. And we are under no illusion that it is going to be easy. The South African Nation is a product of many streams of history and culture, representing the origins, dispersal and re-integration of humanity over hundreds of years.

We have to build one national identity out of multiple identities based on class, gender, age, language, geographic location, and religion. Whilst we have made progress in institutionalising the principle of an inclusive citizenship since 1994, there are certain matters that still cause divisions and frustrations.

The challenges of poverty, unemployment, homelessness, landlessness, and the divisions around race, class and gender make it difficult to arrive at a socially cohesive and united society as fast as we would want to. Our responsibility as government is to lead the South African people towards a national Democratic Society. This is a society that is united, non-sexist, non-racial, democratic and prosperous.

It is a society with a value system that is based on human solidarity and ubuntu, which promotes a society which prioritises caring for and respecting others. It is a society where there is quality education and healthcare, decent housing, decent jobs, where all feel safe and secure and where there is an improved quality of life generally for all regardless of their race, colour, gender or creed.

It is a society that was described by President Nelson Mandela during his inauguration in May 1994 as follows:

"Let there be justice for all. Let there be peace for all. Let there be work, bread, water and salt for all. Let each know that for each the body, the mind and the soul have been freed to fulfill themselves".

Let that message from Madiba inspire us as we deliberate at this summit. Drawing lessons from those who took part in the Congress of the People in 1955, in preparation for this Summit we conducted community conversations in various parts of the country.

These conversations offered an opportunity for South Africans to dialogue with each other on the kind of society we seek to build. South Africans discussed the critical question, what does it mean to be a South African?

Many point to the success of the 2010 FIFA Soccer World Cup, especially with regards to the promotion of unity and national pride, as an example of what a united South Africa should be. During that soccer tournament we succeeded in promoting national unity and in building a sense of common nationhood.

South Africans were united behind the national soccer team Bafana Bafana, and in ensuring that the tournament became a success in all respects. Every citizen became an ambassador of our beautiful country. It was a wonderful moment and it showed us what is possible if we put our country first above all else.

We need to ask ourselves whether that is the standard of South African-ness that we are seeking, or if there is something more that we should and can do to build the South African dream. Indeed there is a lot more that can define us as South Africans and which can help to cement unity and build the social cohesion we desire.

Firstly, our socio-economic transformation programme is a primary tool of national reconciliation, nation building and social cohesion. Therefore the continuous programmes of democratic transformation as well the expansion of basic services and improving the performance of the economy to create jobs, are all designed to created a united, cohesive society where all have access to a better life.

People will be more responsive to social cohesion messages if there is hope and tangible examples of movement towards a better life and economic freedom.As government, we are seized with that programme of improving the quality of life of the historically oppressed black majority, especially the poor and the working class, to promote unity and social cohesion.

There are various other programmes that government is embarking upon to promote unity, reconciliation, nation building and cohesion. We must emphasise that reconciliation is a continuous two way process, especially for a society that has gone through three centuries of colonialism and apartheid.

The heritage transformation projects that we are embarking upon especially this year, will go a long way towards promoting reconciliation, unity and nation building. Government, through the Department of Arts and Culture, has identified 28 heritage projects.

Through the upgrading and declaration of historic sites, we will ensure a more representative and inclusive South African history and heritage. More importantly, this will also contribute towards shared values and a common national identity in the country.

Furthermore, the building and maintenance of new monuments and historic sites has a greater potential to stimulate economic activity and create much needed jobs in communities where these sites are located. These sites will also contribute towards cultural tourism both domestically and internationally.

We outlined during the State of the Nation address that museums and centres to be unveiled include the 1980 Matola Raid museum in Maputo, the Ncome museum in KwaZulu-Natal, phase 2 of the Freedom Park museum and the Steve Biko heritage centre in Ginsberg in King Williamstown.

We have also prioritised the homes and graves of former ANC Presidents and other national heroes including Thomas Mapikela, Lillian Ngoyi, Walter and Albertina Sisulu, Griffiths and Victoria Mxenge, former PAC President Robert Sobukwe and others.

Memorial sites to be prioritised include that of the Pondo Revolt, the sites of the Frontier Wars, the 1913 revolt by African women in the Free State, the 1957 anti-pass revolt by women in Zeerust, the Rocklands Civic Centre in Mitchells Plein where the United Democratic Front was formed and the Gugulethu Seven monument in Cape Town.

We have also prioritized sites such as the Winnie Mandela house in Brandfort, the Dr. James Moroka house in Thaba Nchu and the Bram Fischer house in Westdene. During last year's National Day of Reconciliation, we witnessed a very important milestone in our endeavours to unite all South Africans behind our shared history.

The Freedom Park and the Voortrekker Monument signed a cooperation agreement which opened the access road between the two institutions. This means that visitors can now access both monuments, and understand the history of both communities, black and white.

The heritage programme will continue, in order to lay the foundation for a new democratic society with an inclusive heritage and symbols. Compatriots, this year marks the 20th anniversary of South Africa’s readmission into international sport in general and Olympics in particular. We all know the power of sport as a social cohesion tool.

In this regard we want to acknowledge the incalculable contribution of stalwarts such as the late Steve Tshwete as well as people like Sam Ramsamy, Dennis Brutus and Josiah Thugwane and many others for repositioning South Africa in the international family of sport and recreation.

As a result of the value of sports in nation building, government is now investing in school sports more than ever before. The school sport budget has been increased from 27.3 million rand in the previous year to 42.6 million rand. Thus far, we have managed to register 11 000 out of 27 000 schools to date for participation in the 2012 School Sport Leagues and Competitions.

We are doing this because the production of future Olympic gold medalists must start in our schools, including the disadvantaged schools in predominantly black residential areas in urban and rural areas. Our promotion of sports to the youth is also directed at young women and girls.

We have seen earlier on, in the qualifier championships that our women’s teams are leading the pack with Banyana Banyana and the national Women's Hockey team qualifying for the 2012 London Olympics. This is despite the still skewed resourcing of women’s teams, in comparison to their male counterparts.

Banyana Banyana and the Hockey Team have made us proud through their actions and commitment. We wish to take this opportunity to congratulate all the athletes and teams that have already qualified for the 2012 London Olympic and Paralympic Games.

Government has invested more than R31 million to help Team SA prepare for London.We wish all of them well and will be fully behind them as they represent the rainbow nation. Compatriots, in addition to sports we can look at other instruments, such as our national symbols, which are a collective expression of where we come from, of who we are and what kind of future we seek to build.

The ongoing process of geographical names change and standardisation is also part of the tools of bringing South Africans together, to promote a common nationhood and craft a new and inclusive narrative for our country. In addition, government has developed the Use of Official Languages Bill as part of promoting social cohesion.

The Bill is in response to the provisions of Section 6 of the Constitution that not only identifies 11 official languages, but also obliges the State to take practical and positive measures to elevate the status and advance the use of indigenous languages.

Section 6 of the Constitution provides that national and provincial governments may use any official language for purposes of conducting government business in courts, public notices, official documents and in legislation.

The Section further provides that national government and each provincial government may use at least two official languages. The Constitution also directs that all official languages must enjoy parity of esteem and must be treated equitably which means we must treat them as equal and afford them the necessary respect.

This is an important step that we are taking towards building an inclusive society that belongs to all who live in it. In particular, the languages spoken by the majority are marginalized and this should be corrected. Another important part of promoting social cohesion is the protection and promotion of indigenous knowledge systems.

This may include promoting formal indigenous knowledge education and assisting indigenous communities to establish cooperative structures to organise themselves.


Today's summit is an important gathering of our new nation. This summit confirms that the promotion of social cohesion, nation-building, and national identity are on the list of priorities for our country. The journey towards the kind of society envisaged by those visionaries who gathered at this very place in 1955 is long and full of challenges.

As we proceed along this journey we will have to ask and answer difficult questions. We will also have to confront complex and uncomfortable realities. However as South Africans we have on many occasions proven ourselves to be a nation that thrives and finds solutions to difficult problems through dialogue, discussion and reaching out to one another.

It was through dialogue and reaching out to one another that we were able to produce what is now fondly referred to the "South African miracle". We must therefore look to the future with confidence that whatever the challenges we face we will overcome.

This Summit must be yet another platform for us as South Africans to dialogue among ourselves, reach out to one another and move a step further, in building a truly united, non-racial, non-sexist, democratic and prosperous South Africa. It is my honour and privilege to declare the National Summit on Social Cohesion officially open!

I wish you all successful deliberations.

I thank you.

Issued by: The Presidency
4 Jul 2012