Heritage debate speech by Minister Lulu Xingwana at the National Assembly Cape Town

Send by emailPDF version
15 Sep 2010

Honourable Speaker
Honourable Members

This Heritage Month as we celebrate our heritage and the hard work of our nation united in its diversity, we also thank the people of this nation for all the good work done at the historic first world cup to be held on African soil.

This year’s National Heritage Day national celebrations will be held in Durban on the 24th September at the Moses Mabhida Stadium with the theme of “Celebrating 2010 FIFA Soccer World Cup Successes: our Heritage” and addressed by President Jacob Zuma.

On this occasion political leaders will also be requested to participate through presenting their messages to the nation on this day.

Our religious communities will also lead a thanksgiving prayer and service to give thanks for a successful World Cup.
Our football legends will be given pride of place at this event as well as our sports teams from various sporting codes.
Our artists will also participate and show their commitment to a nation united in action.

Truly the World Cup was an event where our people stood together, where they displayed great patriotism, great confidence in themselves. In this way as a nation as exhibited a renewed consciousness of who we are as a people and what we can do together – and a sense of pride about what we have and can achieve together through displays of the South African flag and also a sense of an African identity evident in our collective support for the other African countries participating in the World Cup.

The challenge moving forward is how to use this example of a people united in action as a living legacy to propel our people into the future - to be confident about our own abilities and to be proud of our history and to honour our living human treasures.

The theme of National Heritage Day is therefore a call to all South Africans who pooled their efforts to making the World Cup a success to use their energies to make this country a better place and to work together towards social cohesion. 
Let the achievements of this year be a source of inspiration, hope and strength especially when we are confronted with the challenges we face as a nation in our daily lives.

This was in fact Ubuntu in action. Ubuntu, our core value encompassing inclusiveness, communal solidarity, empathy, kindness and sharing, which sums up the spirit of togetherness and generosity characterizing South African participation in the World Cup.

Yet Honourable Speaker, I am sure you will agree that 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, our national team and all African teams, how we rallied behind our national flag, how we prepared and practised and sang and danced to welcome the world – this story is yet to be told.

A story of course of discipline and seflessness, of industriousness and of family values.
A story of profound humanism that celebrates a united nation at its best.
It was a timely reminder of the very foundations, values and principles enshrined in our Constitution and what we have come to stand for.

A reminder that in winning a long and hard battle for equality, for a non-racial and non-sexist society, we as South Africa were seeking to take humanity forward - through helping ourselves and the world to turn over a new leaf, to enter a new productive space of possibilities and out of this to give birth to a new man and a new woman.

It is in this context that the topic of today’s debate on Living out the Values of a just and caring society gains meaning. Our leaders such as Charlotte Maxeke, Chief Albert Luthuli, Lillian Ngoyi, Helen Joseph, Oliver Tambo and Steve Biko placed emphasis on non-racism, non-sexism and an inclusive society as essential for the transformation of our nation. They lived their lives with these values guiding their every action. We need to follow their example.

“Comrade O.R. left us a significant and enduring heritage, one, which enhanced our new constitution, contributed to the inclusive and equitable policies of our democratically elected government, and affirmed the abiding vision of the ANC itself. [His simplicity, his nurturing style, his genuine respect for all people seemed bring out the best in them.”

“Our peoples, with their varied cultures which are continuously mingling and interacting to their mutual enrichment, exhibit, despite their conditions, a great love for life and a sensitive joy in the creative and humane endeavors of the peoples of the world, without exception. These ordinary, industrious and peaceful people want to revolutionize themselves and their country.”

It is this selfsame spirit described by Comrade OR that characterizes our people today. It is indeed our “great love for life and a sensitive joy” that enables us to share our stories and to value our cultural expressions.

It is precisely “our commitment to the creative and humane endeavours of the peoples of the world” that has propelled us to want the story of our people and our nation to take its pride of place in the narratives of the world as our contribution to our own development and as part of world culture.

It is in this context of drinking from the fountains of history and learning from the men and women of practical wisdom in our communities and who gave birth to us that we are embarking upon an initiative to honour and to celebrate our living human treasures.

“Celebrating South Africa’s Living Human Treasures – The Custodians of our Intangible Cultural Heritage”, is an initiative of the Department of Arts and Culture to draw attention to the role played by our living legends and to seek to protect and preserve this knowledge and to transmit it to future generations.

The programme also makes provision for the posthumous recognition of living treasures where strong recommendation is made by the bearer communities where the strength of the criteria listed above is applicable. According to the policy, the national living treasure is a lifelong status.

In this way we shall recognize the value and importance of human agency in the transmission of norms, values and skills in society.

The arts, culture and heritage sector is full of such distinguished individuals.

The Department will host a national seminar on human living treasures on 30 September 2010. The main objective of the seminar is to start a national dialogue that will further expand and elaborate on the concept of living human treasures as articulated in the national policy.

It is in this context that we also welcome the initiative of the Moral Regeneration Movement, the identification and adoption of positive values.  We welcome the promotion and awareness of ubuntu through broad-based educational campaigns, and social dialogues that they have embarked upon in the provinces.

Through our social cohesion programmes and our nation-building initiatives we are still addressing these mindsets and the practices that emerged from this history and the struggle for women’s emancipation must be also located as part of the effort to instill values in our society that can promote a truly just and caring society.

When we closely examine our intangible cultural heritage, there are many examples of contributions that need to make their way into our history books and be defined as part of our cultural wealth.

  • The symbols of our nation are also important parts of our heritage. Earlier this year one of the flags flown beneath the helicopters at President Mandela’s Inauguration in 1994, was rescued for our country by a patriotic businessman, Mr Giuseppe Ciucchi. This flag will be formally handed over to the Government at an event on 27 September at Stellenbosch University. We are working on legislation and regulations to block the loopholes being exploited to sell our national cultural heritage overseas.
  • During Women’s Month, we honoured Charlotte Maxeke, Lillian Ngoyi and Helen Joseph by declaring their graves National Monuments.  We honoured Dulcie September by instituting the Dulcie September Memorial Lecture at the University of Western Cape.
  • On Thursday we shall also launch the Social History Centre at the Iziko Museums here in Cape Town. This centre will also play an important role in the preservation of our heritage.
  • Last week I also announced our departmental support for the design and construction of the Steve Biko Centre in Ginsburg in the Eastern Cape which will comprise of a museum, an archives centre, a community media centre, performance spaces and a commemorative garden. In this way new generations will be able to understand their history with confidence and renewed consciousness.

In this way and through these initiatives, we are beginning to make strides as South Africans to preserve and promote “our creative and humane endeavours” as Comrade OR coined it.

I thank you.