Address by Deputy President Kgalema Motlanthe on Heritage Day 2013, East London, Mdantsane

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24 Sep 2013

Programme Director;

Minister of Arts and Culture, Mr Paul Mashatile;

Premier of the Eastern Cape, Ms Noxolo Kiewit;

Ministers, Deputy-Ministers and Members of Provincial Executive Councils;

Leaders of Political Parties Represented in Parliament;

Your Excellencies, Members of the Diplomatic Corps;

Mayors and Councillors;

Traditional Leaders;

Fellow South Africans:



Thank you for joining us on this important occasion to celebrate the National Heritage Day and the 50th Anniversary of the establishment of Mdantsane Township.

This year we celebrate Heritage Day under the theme—“Reclaiming, Restoring and Celebrating Our Living Heritage”

The year 2013 is also significant in the evolution of the history of our country on two levels.

Firstly it marks 100 years since the promulgation of the 1913 Native Land Act — a statute through which black people were dispossessed of their land, livestock, seeds, wagons and all forms of production, thus robbing them of their livelihoods, trampling on their dignity and violating their human rights.

One of the central causes of poverty and under-development of a large section of our population today is this legacy of land dispossession, which is largely reflected through racial inequalities.

Secondly, the year 2013 marks the centenary of the opening of the Union Buildings, which is the seat of the executive arm of the state.

It will be remembered that the Union Buildings were constructed as a symbol of unity between the English and the Afrikaners following the Act of Union of 1909. This Act excluded black people from the main body politic of South Africa. 

In light of this, the Schreiner mission to Britain which included Dr Abdulla Abdurahman and John Tango Jabavu, was intended as an appeal to the British parliament for an all-inclusive union of South Africa.

It is now a matter of history that this request was rebuffed.

On this heritage day we include all these events that mark our common heritage because social-change is a dynamic phenomenon that evolves over time.

As such, we celebrate this heritage with the conscious understanding that there is a great deal about our history that is bad and hurtful, yet we must accept it as part of the growing pains of the free society we set out to create in 1994; a society that is united, democratic, non-racial, non-sexist and just.

The telling of our history in an all-encompassing way will help us appreciate the freedom we enjoy today as no exclusive preserve of any one social grouping but a proud heritage of all South Africans.

Having travelled this long and arduous road to freedom, we have as South Africans come a long way in addressing injustice, inequality and poverty but still have much more to achieve.

We have through our Constitution laid the basis for the construction of a united, democratic, non-racial, non-sexist and prosperous society based on justice, equality, the rule of law and the inalienable human rights of all.

South Africa is indeed a much better society than it was when the Act of Union was promulgated. We have put paid to apartheid laws and we are well on our way to recovery and to becoming a beacon of hope.  

Programme Director;

It is in this spirit that today we are continuing to commemorate the 50th Anniversary of the establishment of Mdantsane — a township intended to be a labour reserve, which resulted in the destruction of families and the division of black South Africans along ethnic lines.

The living conditions in Mdantsane, like those in many other South African townships, helped educate and conscientise many people about the need to fight oppression.

The struggle for liberation was waged by the broadest cross-section of the people of our country and was not just about political freedom, but also about social, cultural, psychological and economic freedom.

Mdantsane has also been the hotbed of political activism against the apartheid system and as a result the township has been at the coalface of popular resistance as well as being at the receiving end of police brutality meted out by the Apartheid security establishment at the time.

What started off as a forced settlement for “Natives Units” is today an ever transforming  home to more than 500 000 South Africans, which must be supported with the necessary socio-economic infrastructure to realise its full reintegration into all avenues of South African life and not continue as a reserve for the abode of the poor, the unemployed and the disenfranchised.

These celebrations should be an opportunity of telling stories about the people who came to stay in this township; the evolution of Mdantsane community and its daily experiences, its social, cultural, economic and political experiences; and other contributions in sport arts and culture.

Programme Director;

In many respects, Mdantsane represents a microcosm of most townships in South Africa which are still living the legacy of apartheid.

Like all these other townships we must through heritage projects strive to tell our narratives not only through monuments, memorials and museums that reflect national democratic change of our post-colonial and post-apartheid past but also by improving the overall quality of life of South Africans.

This heritage project, like all others in South Africa, must be inclusive of the names, languages, places, people and cultures that were manipulated and falsified to bring about divisions.


It is a project meant to showcase our national symbols, combining them with various other indigenous knowledge systems that will form a greater repository of history in a manner that takes all South Africans forward as a united people.


These transformative processes are critical and necessary for allowing communities to reclaim their heritage, identifying past mistakes and growing together as a nation.  

Our nation also needs to look at both naming and renaming of public spaces in a broadly consultative manner consonant with democratic ethos, beginning at the local level all the way up to the national level to unite all South Africans.

Unity of all South Africans is a guiding principle which should never be undermined by sectarian and parochial interests.                                                                

Heritage Day also provides us with the opportunity to promote national symbols, which are central to the redefinition of a new era and identity that expresses the hopes and aspirations of our nation.

Our national flag and our anthem are examples of the symbols that characterise our shared values and unity as a nation.

In addition we must harness our heritage to create employment opportunities, generate income and narrow inequalities.

As you are aware our country is amongst nations endowed with rich and diverse cultural heritage.

We have for example, the discovery of hominid fossils in “The Cradle of Human Kind” in Maropeng which, through rigorous scientific research, demonstrated conclusively that almost every critical event in the emergence of the human species first occurred on the African continent.

This discovery traces the history of primate life on earth back to the last great extinction 65-million years ago.

Understood this way, our heritage predates imperial and colonial times. It is   a lived experience of the evolution of various peoples in a manner that traces our origins as the same people who have been scattered all over the world across millennia.

Ladies and gentlemen;

The year 2014 will mark the 20th Anniversary of democracy in our country.

We should seize opportunities like this to pay homage to those who came before us and made remarkable contributions the evolution and development of our country.

We should be able to appreciate all the achievements that have resulted from our democracy and freedom.

Similarly, we should be able to acknowledge the vast challenges that face our communities and work together to find solutions so that we can build a prosperous and better country for all. 

Finally, let me emphasise that Heritage Day is of utmost importance to the extent that it defines us as a people with a shared future.

This year we celebrate Heritage Day under the theme—“Reclaiming, Restoring and Celebrating Our Living Heritage”.

This year we celebrate Heritage Day under the theme—“Reclaiming, Restoring and Celebrating Our Living Heritage”.

It symbolises the totality of our humanity, our history, our socio-political evolution and the need to overcome our fragmented past and to use such victory as a bridgehead to build a future defined by unity, democracy, non-racialism, non-sexism, justice and prosperity for all our people.

I wish you a happy Heritage Day!!

I thank you, Dankie, Ke a Leboga, Ngiyabonga, Ndiyabulela, Na Khensa, Ndo livhuwa!!!



Source by Presidency