Address by President Cyril Ramaphosa on the occasion of Heritage Day 2019, Mxolisi Dicky Jacobs Stadium, Upington
24 September 2019
Minister of Arts and Culture, Mr Nathi Mthethwa,
Premier of the Northern Cape, Dr Zamani Saul,
Deputy Chairperson of the National Council of Provinces, Ms Sylvia Lucas,
Ministers, Deputy Ministers, MECs and councillors
Traditional and religious leaders,
Members of the Diplomatic Corps,
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Goeie Dag! Dumelang! Molweni! !kai//oab.
Sanibonani! Thobela! Lotjhani! Ndi masiari! Nhlekanhi!
I would like to extend my greetings to all the people of South Africa on this Heritage Day, but most of all to the people of the Northern Cape.
On this day we celebrate our many cultures, traditions and languages.
We also celebrate our greatest legacy of all, and that is our freedom.
Twenty five years ago, millions of South Africans stood in queues around the country to vote for the first time.
Their actions helped give birth to a new country rooted in equality, non-sexism, non-racialism, respect for human rights and tolerance of differences.
The young men and women of South Africa are the inheritors of this political heritage.
May you always remember the sacrifices that were made so we could live in freedom, and never forget it is the duty of all of us to guard this freedom and to ensure that it is passed on to those who are yet to come.
May you wear with pride the honour that comes with being a South African.
It is always a privilege to visit this beautiful province that is home to two UNESCO World Heritage Sites.
These sites were once home to ancient populations, the ancestors of the entire human race.
We have the beautiful and remote expanses of the Richtersveld Transfrontier Park, which has become an international tourist attraction.
Our pride in this gem is all the greater because it was this government that restored the land to its historical owners and inhabitants in 2007, after it had been forcefully taken away from them nearly a century ago.
There are also the red dunes of the Khomani Cultural Landscape, where we find unique and well-preserved rock art that teaches us about a way of life that existed hundreds of thousands of years ago.
These sites serve to remind us that cultural heritage is key to our very survival as a people.
We pay tribute to all South Africans, young and old, who have kept our rich and diverse cultural and linguistic traditions alive.
Just two months ago, we celebrated the 98th birthday of a great resident of the Northern Cape, Baba Credo Vusamazulu Mutwa.
We are fortunate to still have among us such great champions of heritage preservation and who have dedicated their lives to fighting ignorance of African customs.
We wish Baba Credo well and pray that we will continue to enjoy the benefits of his wisdom and knowledge.
This morning at the opening of the Sandile Present Community Library, I also had the privilege of meeting with Mama Katrina Esau.
For many years now, Mama Katrina has been teaching the endangered N|uu language to the people of the Rosedale community from a school in front of her home.
She tells me that she is even moving with the times and wants to make educational CDs and DVDs so that everyone can learn this language, even me.
Fellow South Africans,
Language is the great transmission line that binds us to our forbearers.
It helps us to understand where we have come from and anchors us and our children in the present.
The United Nations has declared 2019 to be the Year of Indigenous Languages, and this year Heritage Month is focused on elevating all our languages and to see that they are more widely spoken and read.
There is no language in this country that is superior to another.
Ahuna luambo fhano Afrika Tshipembe lune lwa vha lwa ndeme u fhira dzinwe nyambo.
There is no language we can say belongs to the past and must stay there.
Daar is geen taal in ons land wat ons kan sê is ‘n taal uit ons verlede en wat in ons gelede gelaat moet word nie.
Vandag omhels en beoefen ons alle tale wat bydra tot die diversiteit van ons nasie.
Every single language spoken in this country has equal value and equal worth.
Puo enngwe le enngwe ya naha ya rona, e loketse hlompho ka ho lekana.
Under colonialism and apartheid African languages were degraded and denigrated, and the languages of the Khoi and San people were marginalised.
This was part of a deliberate attempt to alienate our communities from their history, culture and traditions.
This government is doing everything within its means to promote and preserve all our languages, but most especially the languages of the people of the Northern Cape that are dying out such as N|uu, Nama, !Xun and Khwe.
We are working to restore the collective pride of our people.
The Northern Cape is home to the only radio station in the entire world that broadcasts in the indigenous languages of the San community.
X-K FM is so successful, I am told, that broadcasters from Namibia recently visited to get training on how to start an online radio station for their own indigenous communities back home.
It is also here in the Northern Cape that the Nama language is being taught in primary schools for the first time.
Next year five students from this province will be trained as Nama educators at the University of Namibia.
I want to congratulate the government of the Northern Cape for these significant achievements.
Around the country there are efforts underway to promote indigenous languages and multilingualism through the Commission for the Promotion and Protection of the Rights of Cultural, Religious and Linguistic Communities and the Pan South African Language Board.
We are working with our institutions of higher learning to develop lexicography and terminology development units, and offer bursary schemes to students wanting to major in African languages.
We are actively working to make sure African languages are offered in all of our schools.
Simatasa-tasa senza isiqiniseko sokuthi zonke izikole zethu zifundisa izilimi zethu zesintu.
Over the last few years, we have reduced the number of public schools that do not teach an African language from 2,500 schools to just over 460.
By the end of next year, we are aiming to ensure that all of South Africa’s 23,000 public schools offer an African language.
Our Parliament has also been asked to elevate Sign Language to the status of an official language.
This morning I saw first-hand the eagerness of the learners who read to me in N|uu and Nama at the new community library.
As part of Heritage Month, we are promoting a greater culture of reading and of appreciation of literary texts in indigenous languages.
More than half a million copies of classical texts in indigenous languages have been distributed to various public libraries, school libraries, resource centres and university libraries as part of the Reprint of South African Classics programme.
I want to encourage all South Africans to visit their public libraries and pick up a book in their native language.
ke batla go rotloetsa MaAfrika Borwa go etela di library le go ba roetletsa go bala dibuka tse di ngwetsweng ka loleme la magabo bone.
I also call upon the commercial publishing industry to support the publication of more works in indigenous languages.
The government’s Indigenous Languages Publishing Programme that funds up to half of the cost of publishing such books.
Government also supports national literacy events, book fairs and book festivals, some done in partnership with the National Library.
Right here in the Northern Cape, the Department of Sports, Arts and Culture supports the annual Writers Festival hosted at Sol Plaatje University.
Through these efforts, we hope to see all indigenous languages occupying their rightful place in our society.
Soon we will be reading more novels and textbooks in the indigenous languages of the Northern Cape.
We will be seeing TV shows and listening to radio dramas in Nama, in N|uu and in many other such languages.
I also want to issue a challenge to our musically gifted young people here in the Northern Cape: we want to hear from the Sho Madjozi’s and King Monada’s of the Northern Cape.
Music is one of the best ways to elevate indigenous languages.
We want to download your music onto our phones and watch your music videos on MTV.
Fellow South Africans,
Heritage is not only about cultural preservation – it is a key driver of national development.
It was our sanusi Baba Credo who once said:
“I believe that a truly democratic country is a country that uses the spiritual talents and the heritage of its people to feed the hungry and clothe the naked.”
Our ancestors survived life in this extreme desert landscape because of their knowledge of the land, their ability to find and conserve water, their understanding of animals, as well as their vast knowledge of traditional plants and medicines.
Indigenous knowledge too is part of our heritage, and this government is committed to ensuring that its use benefits our communities.
We want to see more of our communities supported and trained so they are able to use their knowledge and application of these traditional methods to start and operate small businesses.
We have successful examples of this in community-owned lodges in the Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park.
We are actively working with communities to broaden access to the biodiversity economy and to ensure access and benefit sharing between communities and companies.
This is particularly important in the midst of our unemployment crisis.
Around the world, young people are being brought into the heritage space so that they can serve as cultural ambassadors, work as tour guides and operators, and to start their own businesses in promoting heritage.
There are millions of young people around the country who did not get admitted to institutions of higher learning and are unable to access training for whatever reason.
I want to call on community cultural organisations and those custodians of our cultural heritage to teach and train young people.
There must be greater partnerships between communities and youth organisations around cultural heritage, such as through cultural camps and retreats.
We must look at the ways in which the National Youth Service can be harnessed, possibly by incorporating a cultural heritage component as part of its training of young people.
It is the greatest tragedy that our elders often pass away without handing on their knowledge of our customs and traditions.
I call upon our young people: reach out to the elders in your communities, listen to them, learn from them.
What they tell you and teach you has value.
Tje bali butjang tjona le tje bali rutang tjone di botlokwa kudu.
Heritage transmission can also play a role in promoting healthier communities and societies.
A return to many of the affirming traditions of the past – such as respect for elders, respect for women and children and their rights, and leading a healthy lifestyle – can solve some of our social ills.
The promotion of indigenous languages is part of the broader effort to empower the people of South Africa and restore their dignity.
Ku tlakusiwa ka tindzimu ta xinto, i xiphemu xa ku tlakusa no xixima vanhu va Afrika Dzonga.
It is part of the work we must necessarily do to end poverty and reduce inequality.
This involves the creation of economic opportunities for previously disadvantaged South Africans through employment, skills development and support for small business development.
It involves the restoration of land to the poor, whether for farming, housing or business.
It means that we need to invest our country’s human potential by ensuring access for all to quality education, affordable health care and comprehensive social security.
Over the past few weeks, South Africa has had to confront acts of violence, frustration and intolerance that have damaged our sense of solidarity and social cohesion.
Let us use these events to affirm that amid the great diversity of our society, we are united by the values of dignity, respect and equality.
There is nothing in any of our traditions and cultures that supports acts of violence against others, that allows the abuse of women and children, or that promotes racism, tribalism and other forms of intolerance.
We know that regardless of their circumstances, every South African wants the same thing: a better life for themselves and their families and to live in peace and coexistence with others.
As we celebrate our heritage, let us also celebrate our resilience.
Let us step forward and commit to be part of national healing, and to use this rich heritage of which we are so proud to grow our economy, to create jobs and to improve lives.
Let the call of Thuma Mina reverberate again as man, woman and child says: ‘Yes, send me’.
Let them say: ‘I too have talents, I too have ability, I too have something to offer, no matter how small, to make South Africa a better place.’
This country’s freedom was won by the actions of the men and women who stood side by side in the heroic struggle against colonialism and apartheid, a struggle which culminated in our historic first democratic elections 25 years ago.
Now again, and perhaps more than ever, do the actions we take as individuals determine our future as a country.
Let us work side by side to realise the South Africa we want.
Ngiyabonga. Ke a leboga. Baie dankie. Ndiyabulela. Ndo livhuwa.
I thank you.
Issued by The Presidency, 24 September 2019