Acting President’s Heritage Day speech

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Acting President Cyril Ramaphosa says over the last 20 years, South Africa has cast aside centuries of discrimination and oppression to forge a new society.

He was addressing the Heritage Day celebration in Orkney, North West.

Ramaphosa says: “ It is a society built on the dream of freedom for all. Our democracy was not easily achieved, but was won only through the unyielding sacrifices of thousands of our compatriots.Thanks to them we are today a better society than we were in 1994. We are well on the path to realising a united, non-racial, non-sexist, democratic and prosperous society.”

The acting president says we are building a nation of citizens that care for each other, respect one another and share a deep love for our country.

“We are building a nation that is proud of its national symbols, our flag and our anthem. They reflect our shared values and the principle of unity in diversity. Though we have achieved much in the last 20 years, there is a great deal more that we need to do.”
Ramaphosa says: “Understanding the depth of poverty, inequality and unemployment, we have developed the National Development Plan to guide our efforts over the next 20 years.”

“The NDP accelerates our efforts towards building the society that is envisaged in the Freedom Charter. In particular, the NDP is concerned with securing a better future for young people through better educational and economic opportunities.”

“In isiZulu, we say: “Indlela ibuzwa kwabaphambili.” Before we undertake any journey we must remember where we come from and learn from those who have gone before us. We dare not neglect our past. We dare not ignore our heritage. We have a responsibility to respect and acknowledge our past, to celebrate the present and together to build the future. We are celebrating a rich, proud and diverse heritage.”

He says although we may speak different languages, practice different beliefs, engage in different cultural practices and tell different stories, we are bound together by a common African heritage.

“As the scholar Molefi Kete Asante asserts: “[The] concept of an African cultural system is both diverse and dynamic, but derived from a common historical and cultural heritage.” This notion is reflected in the words inscribed on our country’s coat of arms, “!ke e: /xarra //ke”, which calls on diverse people to unite.”

“Heritage Day encourages South Africans to celebrate not only their own cultural traditions, but also the diversity of cultures, beliefs and traditions that make up the South African nation.

“It is a day for South Africans to tell the stories about who they are and where they come from. This day allows us to create awareness through educational programmes, dialogue and public engagements about the meaning and importance of our heritage.”

“Heritage captures the practices and institutions developed across space and time to satisfy our biological, social, political and economic needs. Heritage preserves the knowledge of how human beings adapt themselves to changing environments. Heritage is not static. It evolves with time and changes as societies change. As we transform our society, so too do we transform our heritage. We do not replace what has come before. Rather, we enrich and enhance what we have inherited,” He says.

Working together we can forge a new nation

The acting president says: “We are all too aware that our cultures, traditions and value systems are still influenced by the spatial, economic, social and ideological distortions of colonialism and apartheid. Apartheid social engineering forced us to reside in racial and ethnic enclaves. It forced us to grow up with those who were assumed to be the same as us, to eat the same food, to play and, most absurdly, to love and marry according to race.”

“We were forced never to see beyond the boundaries of race. We could not see beyond the gender roles that we were assigned. We could not live in each other’s spaces and could not learn about our diverse ways of life. While we have made significant progress in changing the institutional barriers that previously divided us, our quest for a non-racial society is far from over.”

Ramaphosa says our new democratic Constitution affords us the right to live where we please.

“Children of different races have the opportunity to attend the same schools, to play with each other and learn each other’s cultures. But we have yet to translate this right into reality for many of our people. Too many of our people cannot live where they want, cannot pursue the professions they desire, and cannot achieve the standard of living they seek. We are still prone to stereotyping each other. We are reluctant to trust those who do not look like us or who don’t speak like us – or who do not belong to the same economic stratum.”

“The challenges of poverty, inequality and unemployment unmask the reality that there is much that still divides us. This reality undermines our ability to forge a common identity and an inclusive nationhood. Although there is still more we have to do to build bridges, we are headed in the right direction. As we continue to mix in our workplaces, communities and schools, we see our children in particular shedding the cloak of difference,” He says.

Ramaphosa says unity can only come from the exploration of what is common and what is different in our histories and experiences.
“ It can only come about by working together to overcome the material barriers that divide us. A common heritage requires a shared prosperity. All people have a history, but our heritage is more than that. History is concerned chiefly with chronological records and analyses of past events. Heritage is about the continuation of the past in the present. It is about drawing on the experiences of the past to forge a better future.”

He says: “This is a future where all people feel they belong, have access to opportunities and can develop their talents. It is a future where their quality of life will give them a sense of place, security, purpose and comfort. This will be a long and deliberate journey. It will be fraught with obstacles and pitfalls. But we have proven that we are a resilient and determined people.”
“Working together we can forge a new nation. Working together we can move South Africa forward. I wish you all a blessed and joyous Heritage Day.”

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