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President Cyril Ramaphosa: Heritage Day 2021

24 Sep 2021

Message by President Cyril Ramaphosa on the occasion of Heritage Day

Fellow South Africans,
Dumelang, Molweni, Sanibonani, Goeie Dag, Thobela, Lotjhani, Ndi masiari, Nhlekanhi.

Today is our Heritage Day.

It is the day on which we celebrate who we are and what makes us what we are.

This year, as we have done in previous years, we pay tribute to all who are working to keep the rich heritage of our people alive.

We acknowledge two Living Legends, uMama Beauty Ngxongo, a renowned expert on Zulu basketry, and uBaba Mgwayo Enoch Mabiko, a celebrated craftsman.

This Heritage Day we also celebrate uBaba Dr Peter Magubane, whose pioneering photography has told the history not only of apartheid, but of our many indigenous cultures.

During Heritage Month we always promote the elevation of indigenous languages.

I want to thank all who are part of this effort, including the publishing industry, which is making more writing available in indigenous languages.

I also want to thank the private sector for supporting prizes for indigenous content publishing such as the Pendoring Awards.

This year we also celebrate a major milestone with the publication of the first dictionary of Afrikaaps.

This is a language synonymous with Cape Town and draws on the languages of the Khoi and San, Dutch, Portuguese, English, Arabic and South-East Asian languages.

We congratulate the team who were involved in this project.

This important resource will not only contribute to our heritage and to the historical record. It is also a beacon of pride for the many residents of Cape Town who speak Afrikaaps.

We are also proud of the Puku Children’s Literature Foundation in Gauteng, which recently won a prestigious award from the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation – UNESCO – for using digital technologies to promote indigenous language literature for children.

This is a difficult time for workers in the arts, culture and heritage space.

The restrictions that we have introduced to contain the spread of the coronavirus have severely damaged this sector.

Although the adjusted regulations have enabled businesses in the heritage sector to reopen under certain conditions, it has been a struggle for many to keep their doors open, to recoup the losses they have incurred, and to reach audiences again.

As government we have been doing what we can, within our means, to help cushion the blow.

Last year we were able to support more than 34,000 practitioners in the arts, culture and heritage space through the COVID Relief Fund.

This Fund formed part of the Presidential Employment Stimulus, which this month entered its second phase.

South Africa’s natural resources are also an integral part of our heritage, and here too the stimulus has played an important role.

We have supported the employment of young South Africans in biodiversity conservation, ecosystems restoration and land use management.

These are just some of the measures we have taken, and will continue to take, to ensure that our country’s heritage is preserved for generations to come.

This is a task that does not fall on government’s shoulders alone, but on all of our shoulders.

We must become our own historians.

Our elders and our cultural practitioners are like libraries, valuable libraries of our past.

They have a wealth of information, and we must tell their stories.

As families, let us encourage our children to spend more time with their grandparents and great grandparents, to listen to them, and where possible to record the histories of our people.

Someday, our children will pass this on to their own children who may themselves become cultural practitioners, authors, filmmakers, museum curators and tour guides.

Heritage is as much about the present as it is about the past. By transmitting it from one generation to another, we keep it alive.

Fellow South Africans,

It has been a challenging year and we have had much to contend with.

We have been trying to get on with our lives in the midst of a deadly pandemic.

We have been slowly rebuilding our economy and have seen the promising green shoots of recovery.

Just as we were doing so, we were confronted with the outbreak of terrible violence in some parts of our country.

Property, infrastructure and businesses were destroyed, jobs were lost and many people were injured and many died.

Our belief in ourselves as a united nation was shaken.

We saw people destroying the very country we are trying to build.

In the aftermath of the violence, we have had to ask ourselves: Who are we as a people? What is it that defines our national character? What is it that defines our identity? What is it that we stand for?

This Heritage Day I would like us to reflect on these important questions.

Because the values we live by, and the principles we stand for, define us as much as what we wear, the food we eat, the languages we speak, the music we listen to, and they also make up our lives.

I speak here of heritage that we cannot see or hold, but which we carry in our hearts and minds.

As South Africans we are an honourable people.

As South Africans we respect others and their rights and believe in the Constitution as the supreme law of the land.

We are proud of our country and our achievements as a young nation that is barely three decades old.

We reject dishonourable conduct.

We are not involved in crime and we report those who are.

We do not engage in acts of corruption, especially as public servants or representatives who have been entrusted with the welfare of our beloved country’s citizens.

As South Africans we share a common cultural value of respect for others, for the elderly, for women, for children, for people’s property and belongings. But we also have a deep respect for ourselves.

We never use culture or tradition as a tool to oppress, to discriminate or to victimise others on any other basis, including their gender, their religion, their sexuality or their sexual orientation.

As South African men, we accord women and girls the highest form of respect, knowing that there is never, ever, any justification to abuse, hit or even kill rape a woman.

We are a compassionate people, we South Africans.

We help others whenever we can, especially those less fortunate than ourselves.

We offer sympathy and support to the many families who have lost their loved ones and who still suffer during this pandemic.

The South Africans that we are makes us care for the welfare of others, be they our neighbours, our neighbours’ children, or strangers.

We, South Africans are a responsible people.

We abide by the regulations that are in place to help contain the spread of COVID-19, which are there for our own safety and welfare.

We wear our masks in public at all times, we observe social distancing, and we regularly wash or sanitise our hands.

We get vaccinated against COVID-19 and encourage others to do so as well.

We are a hardworking people, we South Africans.

Despite the many challenges our economy is facing we keep trying to do what we can to make a better life for ourselves and others.

We keep our country running every day, in our hospitals caring for the sick, teaching our children, providing basic services to communities, keeping communities safe, and running small businesses that serve our people.

Because we want for others what we want for ourselves, we do not vandalise or destroy property meant for the benefit of all of us, such as schools, libraries, roads, clinics or electricity infrastructure or water or roads.

We are a peace-loving people.

Our democracy was won because the dream of a new country was stronger than the urge for retribution.

As South Africans we want to live in harmony with others. We are part of efforts to keep our communities safe and free of crime.

We are a united people.

We are intolerant of any forms of racism, sexism, tribalism or xenophobia.

We embrace non-racialism as our everyday ethos, we embrace this in our communities, in our workplaces and in our places of worship.

We reject racists and check our own prejudices, whether we are black or white.

All this is what should define our character as proud South Africans.

Fellow South Africans,

One of our greatest tasks as a nation is to heal the divisions of the past.

We will never be a truly united nation until we overcome the poverty, inequality and underdevelopment and unemployment that is still so prevalent in our communities. We can only do so if we work together.

This Heritage Day, I call on each and every one of us to express our pride in our Constitution.

It has given rights to all of us that were once denied.

It has given us opportunity were there once was none. It has given all of us freedom.

Thanks to our freedom we are able to see each other not as black or white, not as man or woman, not as city dweller or rural dweller, but just simply as South Africans.

As South Africans let us unite to rebuild this, our beautiful South Africa.

Let us get on with the task of recovery from this pandemic.

To do so let us find one another again, and unite as we have done so many times in the past.

Our unity in our diversity is the most valuable feature of our common heritage.

Wherever you may be, today, I wish you a pleasant and happy Heritage Day.

I thank you.

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