Remarks by the Minister Lulu Xingwana on the occasion of the Intergenerational Dialogues for the Celebration of Nelson Mandela Day, Freedom Park

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16 Jul 2010

“ Significance of Safeguarding the History and Legacy
of Nelson Mandela”

Programme Director
Distinguished Guests
Ladies and Gentlemen:

We meet here today to pay tribute to a remarkable man, a leader and a hero, a living legend, who is very special in the eyes of South Africans and in the eyes of the world.

He has taught us humility and extraordinary discipline.

He has offered us through his example profound lessons in leadership.

He has taught us when to stay firm and when to listen and to learn.

He has taught us selflessness.

He has taught us family values.

He has taught us how to be statesmanlike.

He is a man whom we should perhaps recognize as the one that Frantz Fanon calls for at the end of his book, The Wretched of the Earth.

Fanon tells us that we on the African continent ought not to look westward or northward for solutions to the world’s problems.

“Humanity” he says, “is waiting for something other from us than such an imitation.” 

He says that:

“If we want humanity to advance a step further, if we want to bring it up to a different level than that which Europe has shown it, then we must invent and we must make discoveries….

“For Europe, for ourselves, for humanity, comrades, we must turn over a new leaf, we must work out new concepts, and try to set afoot a new man.”

The man, of course, whom I am speaking about is of course Madiba.

Madiba has taught us that above everything else the biggest victory we can possibly achieve is for the whole of humanity; it is the realization of the goal of true equality and brotherhood among people.

The South African struggle has been significant not simply because the oppressed managed to overthrow the apartheid system and to establish a democracy, but because in winning a battle for equality, for a non-racial and non-sexist society, we were taking humanity forward.

We were helping ourselves and the world to turn over a new leaf, to enter a new terrain and out of this to give birth to a new man and a new woman.

In the last few weeks during which South Africa has successfully hosted the 2010 Soccer World Cup we have seen the rebirth and renewal of a South Africa that is truly alive with possibilities, a country where we can all be proud to say that we are South Africans.

Having scored a victory for democracy, for non-racialism, for non-sexism, 16 years ago, and having welcomed the world most recently to African soil, we can say that we are proud to walk in the footsteps of Mandela. We are all Mandela’s children.

But the full story of how a nation galvanized itself to fight against apartheid has yet to be told. The history books have taught us a great deal about where we are today, but the real passion and the pride, the suffering and the commitment, the sacrifices, have yet to be told.

The full story of how we as a nation have rallied together to welcome guests to our shores is yet to be told. How we constructed stadia, how we built roads, how we offered our homes to others, how we rallied behind our national flag, how we prepared and practiced and sang and danced to welcome the world – this story is yet to be told.

Yet it is a story that celebrates the rainbow nation at its best. It is a story that is aligned to the resolution that the United Nations (UN) passed in 2009 to declare the 18th July Nelson Mandela Day.

The United Nations passed this resolution in recognition of Mandela’s “commitment to promoting conflict resolution, race relations, human rights, reconciliation and gender equality”.  The resolution was adopted by 192 members of the UN General Assembly.

In his state of the nation address last year (2009), President Zuma declared that “Madiba was politically active for 67 years, and on Mandela Day people all over the world, in the workplace, at home and in schools, will be called upon to spend at least 67 minutes of their time doing something useful within their communities, especially among the less fortunate.”

As the arts and culture sector, we especially are called upon to share with our people, especially our youth the rich history and heritage that has produced a Madiba in our midst. Yet, in so doing, we cannot simply celebrate the life of Nelson Mandela.

Of paramount importance is that we need to ensure proper safeguarding of the legacy of Madiba for the benefit of the present and future generations.

This is a job for artists and cultural workers and all those in the heritage sector. It is a profession for teachers and historians. But it should also be a concern of every citizen of this country.

Heritage is pertinent to any society that seeks to define its identity in recognition of the multiplicity of the diverse cultures and traditions that are representative of its people.

History is even more challenging when we also need to demonstrate how these diverse strands can mingle and engage in dialogue in order to coalesce and create a new world.

The meaning and legacy of Nelson Mandela is a constant reminder that issues of heritage permeate across the different sectors and levels of our society, starting with an individual, a family unit, a community and the sectors both private and public that collectively make up a nation.

The challenge of safeguarding such a heritage such as that of the living memory and legacy of Nelson Mandela is not an easy one. We need to convey this to our youth, to each and every one of them, through education and sustainable teaching of our cultural heritage and the values that we cherish and live by, values that give meaning to our individual and social relationships, our intellectual and imaginative growth.

It is true that our Constitution provides the basis upon which to craft appropriate conditions for the expression and transmission of cultural heritage.

Our programmes and policy frameworks, start with the foundation which is youth and education.

It is vital that our young people have a sense of history in which to place themselves, their communities and environment. It is important that they see this legacy as a living history and that they understand that the directions they will take in the future will affect the course of history.

We need to teach our youth what to treasure and value and how best to safeguard the future.

We try to do this through education, through programmes at our heritage institutions and museums throughout the country and through works of arts and theatre and music and literature that also serve to impart history to an audience.

We have recently assisted in the staging of theatrical works that celebrate the life of O.R. Tambo and tell the story of the Rivonia Trial. We are also supporting an exhibition and a series of discussions that look at Mandela and Albert Luthuli in conversation. These are small steps but together with other initiatives we are imparting the positive values that have come out of our struggle and have laid the foundations for our democracy.

In this regard, this Intergenerational Dialogue also becomes another platform in which we come together to see how we can best promote our history, our heritage, our culture.

Perhaps dialogue is the most appropriate way in which we can honour Mandela.

The Nobel Laureate for Literature, Wole Soyinka, (who will be visiting our shores at the end of the month) says that Mandela has inaugurated “dialogue as a culture in its own right.”

And I quote from Soyinka:

“I would simply name him as a symbol of the culture of dialogue, backed by an unparalled generosity of spirit…. Madiba as … the optimistic face of human civilization.”

Today in our discussions let us embrace this “symbol of dialogue” and this “optimistic face of human civilization”.

It is through this optimistic face that we need to see through dialogue how we can build on the gains made in the last 16 years and how we can channel the energies that have been galvanized and have contributed to a successful World Cup.

  • In this regard, the Intergenerational Dialogue will serve as an important session towards the sustainable management and conservation of our heritage through generations.
  • These Dialogues also help us to transmit knowledge from the Elderly to the Youth with the aim of increasing access to invaluable history that resides in the memory of our “Living Human Treasures”.
  • In particular, the promotion and preservation of the memory and legacy of Nelson Mandela, through the Intergenerational Dialogue, should explore and unpack the values and ideas that Nelson Mandela espoused and lived by throughout the different historical moments, including his contribution to global peace and the collective mass struggle for freedom in South Africa.
  • This Dialogue with Elders seeks to motivate young people to heighten their passion for their country, to inspire them about the need for quality contributions towards nation building and the pursuit of a common national vision for the development of society.
  • Let this Dialogue also be an opportunity for South Africans to look closely at themselves as we strive together to promote social cohesion and nation-building.
  • Let this also be an opportunity for us to rally together to fight against poverty, underdevelopment, racism and xenophobia.

    This session coincides with the 1 GOAL EDUCATION FOR ALL campaign that Madiba, himself is so passionate about, to ensure that every child in Africa has access to basic and quality education. My Ministry also commits itself to the realization of the goal of Arts for All.

This Dialogue is also part of the national build-up of activities towards the national celebrations of Nelson Mandela Day to be held in the Eastern Cape Province (Mvezo Great Place) on Nelson Mandela’s 92nd birthday - 18th July 2010.  

In the spirit of preserving and promoting the living memory of Nelson Mandela, it remains crucial that teachings of and about Nelson Mandela are passed on from generation to generation.

Let every one of us also ensure that we devote at least 67 minutes of our time on this day in doing good for others.

With these few words, I would like to applaud both the National Heritage Council and Freedom Park for organizing this important initiative.

I wish you success in your deliberations.

I thank you.