Address by President Jacob Zuma to the joint sitting of Parliament on the occasion of marking Heritage Month National Assembly, Cape Town

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10 Sep 2013

Let me begin by thanking the Presiding Officers for the opportunity to participate in this important Heritage Month debate.

Nearly twenty years ago, we demonstrated to the world that it is possible to walk away from divisions and hatred and build a new non-racial, non-sexist, democratic and prosperous society. In that way, South Africans laid a firm foundation for a better future, working together.

The passing of a progressive Constitution, the supreme law of the land, also confirmed that there would never again be a cruel system of institutionalised racism and subjugation of any group of people in our beautiful country.

Since 1994 we have been building a new legacy and a new heritage for our country, based on the vision of building a united, non-racial, non-sexist, democratic and prosperous South Africa.

We are happy today to have as special guests in this House, 74 second year journalism students from Tshwane University of Technology in Pretoria, Gauteng province.

They are accompanied by their lecturers Dr Ndivhoniswani Tshidzumba and Mr Levy Ndou.

The presence of the students is important as the youth needs to understand and appreciate the rich heritage of their country and the foundation that has been laid for a democratic society.

Honourable Members,

The theme of this year’s heritage month celebrations is “Reclaiming, Restoring and Celebrating Our Living Heritage”.

Aspects of living heritage include cultural traditions, oral history, performance, popular memory, skills and techniques, indigenous knowledge systems and the holistic approach to nature, society and social relationships.

The theme talks to our painful history. One of the powerful weapons of colonialism and apartheid was to control the production and reproduction of knowledge about the past of indigenous communities and to deny them a place in history as a people who rightfully belong to this land.

For this reason, the struggles for liberation and freedom that were waged over the past three centuries were not just about political freedom only. They were also about social, cultural and economic freedom.

They were about the oppressed reclaiming their identity, history, culture and traditions and demanding their rightful place in history and in their country.

The 19 years of freedom and democracy have thus included the building of a new cultural and heritage landscape, through the development of new national symbols, monuments, museums and festivals that define the new free, non-racial and democratic South Africa.

Amongst the visible aspects of our heritage are our popular national symbols. Our colourful rainbow National Flag was unveiled on the 20th of April of 1994, and it continues to instil pride whenever we see it flying anywhere in our country or the world.

The Coat of Arms not only pays homage to some of the oldest inhabitants of our land and their languages. It also expresses an ideal that is central to our national identity, “Unity in Diversity”.

At a provincial level, all nine provinces designed and registered their Coats of Arms with the Bureau of Heraldry. Those provincial coats of arms mark a remarkable departure from Western designs to an introduction of indigenous shapes of shields and crests inspired by African traditions and celebrating our African Heritage.

Our national anthem is one of the most powerful demonstrations of the willingness of South Africans to find each other under difficult circumstances.

It brings two compositions together to bridge past divides and heal the past wounds of a nation that was once painfully fragmented.

The national anthem is also unique in that it is sung in five languages; demonstrating the tireless desire to reconcile and promote national unity.

Our National Orders which are the highest honours that can be bestowed by the President to locals and foreign nationals who are friends of the Republic, recognise communities that were previously excluded, while paying homage to South Africa’s rich heritage.

All these symbols contribute immensely to the building of a new heritage landscape and to the consolidation of our priceless heritage of freedom and democracy.

Malungu endlu yesishaya mthetho ahloniphekileyo,
Mangigcizelele ukuthi amasiko nomlandu wezwe lakithi ujule kakhulu. Udinga ukuthi siwulondoloze futhi siwusabalalise, waziwe ezweni lonke nasemhlabeni wonke jikelele.

Sizoqhubeka njengohulumeni ukwakha amaziko omlandu noma izizindi zomlandu omusha wezwelakithi.

Lokhusikwenzela ukubuyisa isithunzinesigqisabantu nesezwe lakithi, nokugcizelela ukubuyisana nokwakha kabusha isizwe sakithi.