Address by President Jacob Zuma at the Heritage Day celebrations in Siyabuswa, Mpumalanga Province
24 September 2017
The Premier of Mpumalanga Province, Mr David Mabuza,
The Minister of Arts and Culture, Mr Nathi Mthethwa and all Ministers present,
Members of the Diplomatic Corps
MECs, MPs and Members of the Provincial Legislature
Our Special Guest Mama Esther Mahlangu
Our Esteemed Traditional Leaders,
Mphakathi waseSiyabuswa namaphethelo,
Fellow South Africans,
We greet you all on this important day on which South Africans celebrate Heritage Day.
On this day we celebrate our rich cultural diversity. This past Friday at various places of work and schools, South Africans of all ages were clad in colourful traditional attire. During Heritage Month we also celebrate our local food, colourful languages, dance, plays, music and many other forms of cultural expressions.
Heritage Day is thus a day on which we express how proudly South African we are!
Sigubha inyanga nosuku lwamagugu, usuku lapho abantu bekhombisa ubumnandi bokuba ngabantu base Ningizimu Afrika. Sikhombisa ubuhle bemvunulo yethu yesintu, ukudla kwesintu, imidlalo nokuningi okuseza sithi siziqhayise ngobuzwebethu.
Kubalulekile lokhu ngoba uhulumeni wobandlululo wayethatha amasiko ethu awasebenzisele ukubacindezela nokubahlukanisa abantu.
Uhulumeni wabacindezeli waze wakhanezakhiwo ezingonomgogwana ethiozimele geqe, esebenzisa izilwimi zethunobuzwe ukusihlukanisa ukuzeasiphathe kalula sesihlukene, abulalenomzabalazo wenkululeko.
Uhulumeni wentando yeningikaKhongolose wakuqeda konke lokhu,wathi siyisizwe esisodwa futhi amasikoawahlonishwe wonke ngokulinganayo.
Ngakho-ke, uma sigubha lolusukulwamasiko sigubha inkululeko yethunobumnandi eyafika nabo ezweni.
We have this year decided to celebrate Heritage Day and Heritage Month under the theme: “The year of OR Tambo: Celebrating our Liberation Heritage.”
We recall the rich history of struggle which brought us the freedom and democracy we enjoy today.
We declared 2017 the year of Oliver Reginald Tambo, who dedicated his entire adult life to the struggle for liberation.
His wisdom, humility and his steadfast belief in the creation of a South Africa free from all forms of discrimination, poverty, injustice and inequality, played a key role in shaping South Africa’s vision and value system.
Part of his enduring legacy is that all that Oliver Tambo stood for, has been enshrined in South Africa’s Constitution, forming part of our rich liberation heritage.
In celebrating the liberation heritage of the country, the ANC as the oldest liberation movement in the continent, features prominently.
Its formation in 1912 stirred the imagination of the continent.
African National Congresses were formed in Zimbabwe, Zambia and even as far afield as Uganda. Our national anthem, Nkosi Sikelel'iAfrika', which is sung in a host of Southern African nations, is a reflection of the pan-African vision and unity for which the ANC has always stood.
Another central theme in our liberation heritage celebration is non-racialism.
Throughout the twentieth century the ANC consciously fostered the unity of the broadest range of forces opposed to the racist state.
Non-racial unity decisively emerged during the mass campaigns of the 1940's and 1950's against apartheid repression.
The Congress Alliance which united all these formations was born during the Campaign of Defiance against Unjust Laws of 1952, bringing together formations representing all racial and class components of South African society.
The Communist Party of South Africa, (the CPSA later known as the SACP), the Transvaal and Natal Indian Congresses and the Coloured People's Congress all worked together in defiance of apartheid laws. This culture of unity in action also emerged during the 1980s when the United Democratic Front brought together progressive formations to take on the apartheid state.
Indeed we have a rich liberation heritage which should inform how we take South Africa forward in unity.
The quest for gender equality and the participation of women in political life is another powerful element in the liberation heritage of South Africa.
The growth of the women's movement after the founding of the ANC Women's League in 1941 and the Federation of South African Women in 1954 had an impact in influencing questions of race and class within the ranks of the liberation movement.
The youth has also made a visible impact at most critical moments in the country’s liberation history from the 1950s when they breathed life into the struggle during the defiance campaign to 1976 with the student uprising and the swelling of the ranks of uMkhontoWesizwe and indeed the 1980s when the young lions were called upon by OR Tambo to make the country ungovernable and apartheid unworkable.
The working class has a special place as well in the liberation heritage of our country. From the ICU of Clements Kadalie, to the South African Congress of Trade Unions and later COSATU, workers played a key role in ensuring the defeat of apartheid colonialism and the dawn of a new democratic era in our country.
We also salute the role of faith-based communities, who also feature prominently in our liberation heritage, the South African Council of Churches, World Council of Churches and others, the Christian Institute led by Dr. Beyers Naude all played their part in advancing the struggle for liberation.
This year and month also marks the 40thanniversary of the brutal murder of Black Consciousness Movement leader Steve Biko in 1977, one of the most courageous leaders of our struggle, who paid the supreme price and lost his life in September 1977.
Steve Biko encouraged black people to free their minds from apartheid victimhood. He said they should take pride in their identity, culture and heritage and to reject the subhuman status that they were relegated to by the oppressive regime.
Steve Biko emphasised that change would come when black people defeated, what he termed; “the one element in politics which was working against them, a psychological feeling of inferiority which was deliberately cultivated by the system.”
Indeed compatriots, we have a rich political and liberation heritage from which we should draw lessons and inspiration, as we build our country further.
In shaping the current and future South Africa, the Constitution of the Republic is a powerful symbol of our political and liberation heritage.
The Constitution takes its roots from key ANC human rights documents such as the 1923 Bill of Rights in South Africa, the 1943 African Claims and the 1955 Freedom Charter.
It is also derived from further constitutional developments which occurred in the mid-1980s when the African National Congress published the Constitutional Guidelines for a Democratic South Africa, a public expression by the ANC of an initiative aimed at achieving a negotiated settlement in South Africa.
In terms of these Constitutional Guidelines, the ANC committed itself to the adoption of a Bill of Rights enforceable through the courts. The initial consequence of this initiative was the adoption of the Harare Declaration by the Organization of African Unity in August 1989.
This document used the Constitutional Guidelines as a basis for outlining the minimum principles of a post-apartheid constitution, and was later adopted by the Non-Aligned Movement and the United Nations General Assembly. The ANC further proposed its own Bill of Rights for a New South Africa in 1990, with further amendments in 1991 and 1992.
The Constitution was signed into law by President Nelson Mandela on 10 December 1996 in Sharpeville.
Madiba said on that historic day;
“Let us now, drawing strength from the unity which we have forged, together grasp the opportunities and realize the vision enshrined in this Constitution. Let us give practical recognition to the injustices of the past, by building a future based on equality and social justice”.
The drafting of the Constitution and also the CODESA talks and transition to a new democratic South Africa, remain powerful contributions to the liberation heritage of our country. South Africans were able to solve their problems working together.
To make this liberation heritage even more meaningful to our people, work began immediately in 1994 to transform South Africa from the pariah that she was to a democratic state. During the first ten years of democracy 789 laws or amendments aimed at reconfiguring South African society were approved by Parliament.
The dismantling of the legal framework of apartheid and the transformation of many state institutions has led to the visible improvement of the socio-economic conditions of millions of people.
Every day work is done to ensure that more people get access to water, electricity, housing, education, health and other basic services.
Every day work is done to improve the investment climate in the country so that we can get much-needed investments by local and foreign investors to help our people get jobs.
Work is also continuing to improve services such as transportation and to create economic hubs outside of city centres, including this part of Mpumalanga.
During the State of the Nation Address this year, I indicated that government had begun to upgrade R573 Moloto Road. The project is expected to create jobs and provide training in various skill sets including construction.
Once the road is complete, the project will not only become a symbol of road safety.
The road will also bring more economic activity to the three provinces of Mpumalanga, Limpopo and Gauteng.
In 2016, South Africa signed a cooperation agreement with the People's Republic of China to build the MolotoRail Development Corridor. This development is included in a list of projects submitted to the Forum of China-Africa Cooperation (FOCAC).
The rail development will provide a public transport system that is user- friendly, less environmentally damaging, cheaper and seamless.
This is all part of building a better South Africa and better lives for all.
We have indicated that we will build a better South Africa for all, through radical socio-economic transformation, ensuring that the ownership, control and management of the economy is de-racialised and is not in the hands of white compatriots only.
Some aspects of the programme are being implemented already through various programmes such as that of developing black industrialists. There are also projects aimed at opening up space for black people to participate in the manufacturing, mining, tourism, agriculture, oceans economy, water, energy and other sectors as owners and managers.
There is still a long way to go and this project requires unity of purpose and action by government and the private sector, to ensure success in building a sustainable economy that caters for the needs of all and not just a few. We trust that the private sector will continue working with us in support of this project.
The month of September is also Tourism Month in our country and it is befitting to hold the Heritage Day in a province that one of the key tourist attractions in the Republic.
Mpumalanga is home to one of Africa’s largest national parks, the Kruger National Park, with a wide variety of animals including our famous big five; elephants, lions, rhinos, buffalos and leopards.
Mpumalanga is also home to important rock art, particularly in areas of Witbank, Lydenburg, White River, Nelspruit, Nsikazi as well as in the Kruger National Park.
These symbols of our history should be preserved from illegal excavation in the same manner as our animal kingdom like rhinos have to be preserved.
Mpumalanga also features prominently in the liberation heritage and history of our country, with many leaders having come from this province, and played a key role in the liberation movement.
This province is also the birth place of Contralesa, an organisation of traditional leaders who decided to throw their lot with the liberation movement.
Indeed we have a rich liberation heritage in this province and in our country in general.
To ensure that we do not lose this rich history nationally, government has introduced the Liberation Heritage Route National Project.
The South African Heritage Resources Agency has restored, rehabilitated and declared as national heritage sites the burial sites/graves of our struggle stalwarts and the founding fathers and mothers of our liberation and democracy.
Graves so declared include those of John Dube, Oliver and Adelaide Tambo, Charlotte Maxeke, Helen Joseph and Lilian Ngoyi Rahima Moosa, PAC leader Robert Sobukwe, Steve Biko, Chris Hani, JB Marks and Moses Kotane.
Sites are also being identified where individuals and organisations have made outstanding contributions to our liberation struggle and history and to the development of our cultural values. The identified sites are upgraded and declared National Heritage sites and be maintained by the State.
One example is the home of Mama Winnie Madikizela Mandela in Brandfort which is being turned into a museum.
Through the upgrading and declaration of these historic sites, we will ensure a more representative and inclusive South African history and heritage. More importantly, this will also contribute towards shared values and a common national identity in the country.
Furthermore, the building and maintenance of new monuments and historic sites has a greater potential to stimulate economic activity and cultural tourism in communities where these sites are located. This will contribute to job creation.
We urge you to visit these sites around the country, and understand the liberation heritage history of our country better.
This is also part of promoting domestic tourism, as part of We Do Tourism campaign that was launched in May this year. We must know our country better, as South Africans. We must tour South Africa as much as possible. That is the purpose of the We Do Tourism campaign.
In promoting our culture and heritage we should always be informed by the Constitution and the values it espouses.
Our constitution and our culture actually promotes safety and security of all. I appeal to all the people of South Africa to protect women and children from abuse and coldblooded murders.
Let us also stop cultural practices that violate the rights of young children such as forced marriages.
Let us also ensure maximum health, safety and security in the initiation schools, and ensure that these are sanctioned by relevant authorities such as traditional leaders so that we can protect our young people.
Importantly, let us not lose the promise of a better South Africa that the dawn of democracy brought.
Apartheid was a corrupt and violent system of governance which kept our people in subjugation. Let us unite against corruption and crime in our communities and in our country. These scourges should not divide us at all.
They require national unity of purpose and action, regardless of political affiliation.
As we celebrate our music, languages, cultures and traditions today, we acknowledge the impressive contributions to our heritage such as the sophisticated works of isiNdebele art by our very own Mama Esther Mahlangu continues to dazzle the design world. She is our special guest today.
I am pleased that the provincial government this province will sponsor a dedicated project on her works as part of building a long lasting legacy of Mama Mahlangu.
We also acknowledge Mpumalanga artists who have made a contribution to our culture and music in various ways, such as uMama Nothembi Mkhwebane,an iconic figure deserving of the title of being the Queen of Ndebele Music.
The province has also produced talented artists such as Rebecca Malope, Sipho Makhabane and the late Ray Phiri who used music to promote freedom from apartheid repression.
We also acknowledge all artists and the creative arts industry in our country for their contribution to promoting our cultural heritage in various forms.
Compatriots and friends,
Let us not be complacent in our victories over racial domination and repression.
As a united, sovereign, democratic state, let us strengthen our efforts building a nation free from poverty, hunger, homelessness and inequality.
Let us protect our liberation heritage, and use it to build a better South Africa each day.
Fellow South Africans,
I wish you all a happy and meaningful national Heritage Day!
I Thank you.