Former Minister Speeches
I rise to move the budget for the Department of Arts and Culture at a time of deep humiliation. South Africa and her people have been profoundly shamed before the world and the African continent as a result of the actions of what in reality were a few hundred xenophobic individuals, who are a tiny minority of our population..
It gives me great pleasure to begin this day with such an historic announcement. Today’s is an event that is unprecedented in the history of this country. I can confidently say that today’s event is an integral part of the healing process our nation is still passing through since the advent of democracy.
It is an honour for South Africa to have been selected from among the 53 member states of the Commonwealth to host the 2008 Commonwealth Writers’ Prize. This prize has been in existence for twenty-one years, and after fourteen years of freedom, South Africa has become only the second country on the African continent to host this august occasion. Ghana was the first country to host this prestigious prize in 2001, as it was the first sub-saharan African country to attain independence from colonial rule in 1957.
It is indeed a great pleasure for me to be here to launch “The Meanings of Timbuktu”.
Tonight's event is the outcome of one of the more significant NEPAD Programmes that entailed the government of South Africa, on the personal initiative of President Thabo Mbeki, undertaking a project to conserve and draw attention to the heritage of scholarship in Timbuktu. One dimension of this project is the construction of a new building to house the greater part of the collection of manuscripts of Timbuktu. The building, the new Ahmed Baba Institute of Mali, is nearing completion.
UNESCO has over the five decades of its existence correctly placed great emphasis on the protection of humanity’s tangible heritage. UNESCO emerged from the experience of two World Wars. During those terrible years the human family had been subjected to the destructive capacity of industrial society and entire cities had been reduced to rubble. It became self-evident that our human ingenuity, that had so enriched our lives, had created the means to destroy virtually everything we had ever invented, built, manufactured or devised.
I am honoured to be part of this historic and auspicious occasion. The opening of the Chinese Art Exhibition, “Treasures of China”,
is part of the celebrations marking the 10th anniversary of the establishment of formal bilateral relations between the Republic of South Africa and the People’s Republic of China.
With these few greetings I trust I have embraced a great number of you, but for those I’ve inadvertently omitted from my greeting, please know that you are warmly and sincerely saluted as a delegate to this important conference, which is most appropriately being held in 2008, the year that has been declared the Year of Languages by the United Nations Organisation.
The story of SS Mendi is one of immense human courage and bravery. We mark the sinking of this ship because of the 616 South Africans, 607 of them African men of the 802nd South African Native Labour Corps en route to Le Havre in France, where they were to serve as menials, doing the dirty work which South African White soldiers would not perform!
Heritage is one of the primary sources of identity, imparting to communities a sense of belonging. That South Africa is culturally diverse is readily recognized. Less evident is the strengths our society can derive from that diversity.
We are here to mark the thirtieth anniversary of a number of repressive actions. One was an act of murder that of Steve Bantu Biko in police custody in September 1977. The second also took place thirty years ago, after the murder of Steve Biko became an international scandal, when the apartheid regime thumbed its nose at world opinion by banning 17 organizations and two newspapers, “The World” and the “Weekend World”.