Keynote address by Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa: 2015 Heritage Day
24 Sep 2015
Our Host, the Premier of Limpopo, Mr Stanley Mathabatha,
Minister of Arts and Culture, Mr Nathi Mthethwa,
Ministers, Deputy Ministers, MECs and MMCs,
Ambassadors and High Commissioners,
Executive Mayor of Capricorn District Municipality, Cllr Gilbert Kganyago,
Mayor of Molemole Local Municipality, Cllr Paulinah Makgatho,
Fellow South Africans,
Thobela! Dumelang! Ndi masiari! Lotjhani! I nhlekanhi! Sanibonani! Molweni! Goeie Dag!
Almost two centuries years ago, on this day in 1828, our country and continent lost the legendary King Shaka Zulu at the hands of his brothers.
One of the enduring traditions that King Shaka bequeathed to his people was a culture of meritocracy.
What endeared the King to his people was his deep sense of fairness and justice.
It was during his reign that even commoners could become izinduna or generals if their bravery and skill in war came to his attention.
The heroic legacy of all our Kings and Queens in defence of our dignity must continue to inspire our generation to work for the greater good of our nation.
Heritage day reminds us that we are descendants of heroes and heroines like Autshumato, Hintsa, Moshoeshoe, Ngungunyane, Sekhukhune, Mampuru, Makhado, Cetshwayo, Manthantisi, Modjadji, and Makwena Matlala.
On Heritage Day we recall that the contours of our nation bear the wounds and scars of migration and slavery.
When we trace the footprints of Sheik Yusuf, we celebrate his defiance, his bravery and his faith.
In Islam he found his solitude and fortitude.
In resisting oppression he found his purpose.
On this day, we recall the legacy Mahatma Gandhi and the contribution that he made to the theory and practice of defiance in South Africa.
We remember those white compatriots who defied the law in defence of justice – people like Father Trevor Huddleston, Helen Joseph, Bram Fischer, Ray Alexander and Joe Slovo.
When we recall the pain and suffering of Afrikaner women and children – and of many African families – in concentration camps at the turn of the twentieth century, we say their pain is our pain, and their loss is our collective loss.
We do not deny the contradictions of our past.
We are the children of settlers and the children of natives.
We are the children of oppressors and the children of the oppressed.
But we are united today by our rejection of past injustices and by our determination that never again shall one be oppressed by another.
Like the late Nat Nakasa, we say:
“My people are South Africans. Mine is the history of the Great Trek. Gandhi’s passive resistance in Johannesburg, the wars of Cetshwayo and the dawn raids which gave us the treason trials of 1956. All these are South African things. They are part of me.”
We are African.
We see ourselves reflected in the ancient civilizations of Egypt and Timbuktu.
We rejoice in our affinity with Mapungubwe and Great Zimbabwe.
Fellow South Africans,
We are gathered here today to celebrate indigenous knowledge – to identify, promote and preserve South Africa’s living heritage.
This is part of our effort to revive and sustain ways of living which in the past were undermined, excluded and actively marginalised.
Living heritage can help promote a positive African identity in a globalising world.
Understanding and embracing our indigenous cultural traditions can foster social cohesion, national unity and pride.
This an opportunity to affirm and celebrate the knowledge, the skills, the belief systems, rituals, stories, legends, music, dance, arts, crafts, food and drinks of our people
Just as we applaud the discovery of Homo Naledi at the Cradle of Humankind, we must both explore what these fossils tell us about our origins and celebrate the traditional stories used to explain creation, life and death.
Just as we build the largest telescope in the world, we must identify living human treasures who still possess the African knowledge of astronomy.
African societies used their knowledge of the night sky to navigate, to keep time and to inform cultural practices.
The appearance of the Pleiades or the isilimela in Nguni, signalled the time for ploughing.
Indigenous knowledge is not a relic of the past.
It is a vital part of our present and our future.
The San people used the plant Hoodia gordonii for centuries to control hunger on long hunts in the Kalahari desert.
Not long ago, scientists discovered that this plant has appetite-depressing properties.
In partnership with the San community, this plant is now patented for weight loss medication and is sold to a large international market.
Rooibos, which has become a global brand, is a traditional beverage of the Khoi-descended people.
Here in Limpopo, the marula is both a source of food and medicine.
The oil is used as a balm to treat ear, nose, and throat conditions while the essence from the leaves provides relief from burns and spider bites.
Today, we celebrate the role that our traditional healers, izinyanga, izangoma and dingaka play in the well-being of our nation.
Government has established the Traditional Healers Council.
This is a national body that recognises the status of traditional healers and develops norms and standards for the profession.
Fellow South Africans,
We have a lot of skilled crafters, potters and sculptors within our communities.
There is a big market for their products locally and internationally.
To access this market, traditional crafters, weavers, potters and other artists need to be given basic marketing and financial management skills.
A lot of people in villages are skilled in building roofs with straw and grass.
This building method is used to construct lapas, upmarket houses and guest lodges.
However, the men and women who have this valuable skill are not registered as artisans or master builders by homebuilders associations and engineering bodies.
This is an opportunity for the industry to begin a process of registering indigenous building methods as an officially recognised trade.
Most of us gathered here today grew up eating indigenous food, ranging from imfino, bogobe, amagewu, amasi and marula or buganu.
This indigenous food and drink is nutritious and inexpensive.
Our parents grew these plants and vegetables in their gardens.
By planting and harvesting indigenous crops and vegetables we can respond to the problem of poverty and hunger within our communities.
Fellow South Africans,
Initiation schools have for generations been important as community schools.
Here young men and women are taught important skills to look after families, to adjudicate when there are problems and to conduct themselves as respectable adults within communities.
Yet we are confronted by a new challenge – young men who die during initiation and others who are maimed as a result of botched circumcisions.
All initiation schools need to be sanctioned by community leaders and must meet health requirements.
Those who want to oversee the circumcision practice must be commissioned by the community before opening an initiation school.
We can use initiation schools to teach young people about acceptable sexual behaviour and the prevention of HIV transmission.
They have a role to play in discouraging young people from following a life of crime, violence and alcohol and drug abuse.
These must be cultural schools that reaffirm positive social values.
It is said that when an old person passes away, we bury a library.
Senior citizens are living human treasures.
We have a duty to ensure that their knowledge is collected and preserved for future generations.
Let us provide them opportunities in community centres and schools to educate our youth.
Let us continue working together to identify, preserve and promote indigenous knowledge systems and the living heritage of all our people.
As we celebrate Heritage Day, let us reflect on the words of the preamble to the National Development Plan, where we say:
South Africa belongs to all its peoples.
We, the people, belong to one another.
We live the rainbow.
We value interdependence and reciprocity.
We feel hospitable.
We are a community of multiple, overlapping identities, cosmopolitan in our nationhood.
Our multiculturalism is a defining element of our indigeneity.
We are, because we are so many.
Our many-ness is our strength - we carry it in us throughout our lives.
Once, we uttered the dream of a rainbow.
Now we see it, living it. It does not curve over the sky.
It is refracted in each one of us at home, in the community, in the city, and across the land, in an abundance of colour.
When we see it in the faces of our children, we know:
there will always be, for us, a worthy future.
I thank you.