Address by Minister Nathi Mthethwa at the launch of Heritage Month and National Book Week, at Howick, Kwazulu-Natal Province
Theme: “The Year of Nelson Mandela: advancing transformation of South Africa’s heritage landscape”
Deputy Minister; Hon. MM Sotyu
Director General, Mr V Mkhize
Members of staff of the Department
Members of the media
Ladies and gentlemen
Fellow South Africans, I extend my warmest greetings to all of you. I stand before you today to do two important assignment though in most cases they are looked down upon. The first is to launch a heritage month, the second one is to launch the National Book Week.
Fellow South Africans, you will remember that our democratic dispensation is only twenty-four years old. In many public places of our country monuments that you will find still reflect the old order. I don’t need to emphasise the significance of this.
In 2015, students from tertiary institutions of higher learning launched a campaign that was popularly known as “#Rhodesmustfall”. The essence of this campaign was about the transformation of our heritage landscape to reflect every aspects of our society.
The national celebration will be hosted in Kokstad, KwaZulu-Natal.
The choice of Kokstad is also significant in many ways. Firstly, it is our way of reaffirming our commitment and reassuring the Griqua community and other communities which may have some ambivalence about their sense of belonging that they too matter. That they too are part of the broader South African society and have not been forgotten. In that regard, it may also be opportune and apt that we pay tribute to Adam Kok, his reigning dynasty and the Griqua community at large for their courage, determination and fortitude in resisting colonial occupation and the prize that many have had to pay – including death.
It is quite clear therefore that by the turn of the 20th century when the African National Congress burst onto the political scene, the founding fathers and mothers were undoubtedly have been inspired by the fearlessness and intrepidity of their forebears, such as the Griquas of Adam Kok.
We have gathered here this morning to honour those who came before us left their mark so that we this generation can live a better life.
In the life of every nation, there arise men and women who leave an indelible and eternal stamp on the history of their peoples; human beings who are both products and makers of history. And when they pass they leave a vision of a new and better life and the tools with which to win and build it. Adam Kok and his generation were such people that we need to immortalised.
National Book Week.
National Book Week is a national awareness campaign to promote the importance of reading and the book. The campaign aims to engage the public and create awareness around the critical role books play in the development of a society.
Books and literary production plays a significant role in promoting national, social cohesion, and are foundational in telling the society’s story. If we do not tell our story who will tell the story and who’s story will be narrated.
As the West African proverb says “Until the lion tells his side of the story, the tale of the hunt will always glorify the hunter.”
The theme for this year’s event is #OURSTORIES, which is intended to highlight not only the fact that storytelling is deeply ingrained in African culture, but that South Africans can and should be the authors of their own stories.
The primary aims of the National Book Week is the following amongst others:
- Promote and entrench a culture of reading in South Africa particularly in schools;
- Raise awareness of the critical role reading has to play in fostering socio-economic development;
- Celebrate books as a means of facilitating and supporting education, culture and heritage;
- Showcase and increase indigenous language publishing;
- Showcase South African and African writers, publishers, booksellers and related businesses;
- Form partnerships with other African countries that celebrate National Book Week; and
- Create awareness of both National Book Week and the South African Book Fair through various media channels.
The great poet, Pablo Neruda, in his humorous poem, Ode to the Book, writes the following; and I quote:
"Book, let me go.
I won't go clothed
I don't come out
of collected works,
have not eaten poems--
feed on rough weather,
and dig their food
out of earth and men.
I'm on my way
with dust in my shoes
free of mythology..."
The two events carry a number of activities. Various provinces have developed programmes that are province specific.