Let us build a new, shared heritage for South Africa
Note to editors: the following remarks were delivered today by Democratic Alliance (DA) Leader, Mmusi Maimane, at a Heritage Day celebration in Orlando West, Soweto. Maimane was joined by DA National Spokesperson, Refiloe Nt'sekhe, DAWN Leader, Dr Nomafrench Mbombo, DA National Caucus Chairperson, Annelie Lotriet, DA Shadow Minister of Home Affairs, Joe McGluwa, and DA Youth Leader, Luyolo Mphithi.
My fellow South Africans,
We are standing here outside the home of our former statesman, Nelson Mandela – a man who made us believe that we had a future together in this country. A man for whom our differences and our diverse heritage was an indication of our riches as a nation, and not our divisions.
This Heritage Day we will rightfully reflect on where we come from – our customs, our language, our culture. But we must also use this time to think of the heritage we’d like to build for future generations. And this means we must start focusing on the future rather than the past.
The only future worth pursuing for our country is as one, united people. And so all our efforts must go into building a reconciled society, and an economy in which all can share.
Reconciliation doesn’t mean that we must all surrender our diversity. It doesn’t mean we must give up our identity or apologise for our race, culture or language. It is an acknowledgement and a celebration of our diversity, and recognition that this diversity is what makes us strong and resilient. Black and white, young and old, Xhosa, Zulu or Afrikaans, we are better and stronger together.
We overcame Apartheid together, we crafted a Constitution together, we started off on a road towards a better future together. Working together we have hosted soccer World Cups, we have won rugby World Cups, we have shone on the biggest stages in the world.
So when others come and tell you that we are each other’s enemies, don’t listen to them. When they find scapegoats among us for their own failures, don’t listen to them. When they tell you that certain people or languages don’t belong in this country, tell them that they most certainly do not speak for you.
When Panyaza Lesufi displays his open hatred towards Afrikaans and tries to shut the language down, tell him he’s alone in that fight. Every South African language has the right to belong and to thrive. And when Ace Magashule tells white South Africans that they are foreigners in their own country, let him know that this is the view of a tiny minority.
The people who insist on dividing us and telling us we should hate and fear each other are not the South Africans who will build our country into the place we all know it can be. They are the people who have run out of ideas. And they dwell in the past, because that was their time. They have neither a plan nor a vision for the future.
The reason our society is split is because our economy is in trouble. And the only way to heal the divides in our society is by building prosperity for all. Not by retreating into laagers of racial solidarity. Not by building parties that are mono-racial or mono-cultural. That was yesterday, and we need to choose tomorrow.
So while others seek to divide, the rest of us will look to the future and get on with rebuilding South Africa. And this starts with ensuring that our economy doesn’t just grow, but does so in a way that includes more and more South Africans.
We cannot do this while remaining obsessed with state-led development, the way this ANC government is. We must reform our politics so that those who still believe in this state-heavy system – whether they are the nationalists on the left or the right – can stick together, while we build a centre around the idea of a lean, capable state, and a government whose obsession is inclusive growth.
This new consensus in the centre of our politics must be committed to a shared future vision for our country. It must be committed to the Rule of Law and the eradication of corruption. It must be committed to our Constitution, and safeguarding all the rights enshrined within it. And this includes secure property rights for all, because this is how we allow people to build wealth and our agriculture to thrive.
Our new consensus must be committed to investing in strategic infrastructure, and maintaining what is already there. We must build infrastructure that not only connects us with each other, but also with our neighbours across Southern Africa. Because we are in this project together with them. Our fortunes are tied together.
I have recently met with leaders from the SADC region, and we all stand in firm agreement that we condemn any form of xenophobic violence. We are allies, not enemies. We should be building partnerships and relationships, not hurting each other and chasing each other away. Our future is a SADC where we can trade together and travel together.
Building an inclusive economy also requires redress for past injustices. But this has to be a redress model that benefits all, and not just a handful of selected cadres who enrich themselves again and again. One way to do so is to make available start-up capital – a Jobs & Justice Fund – to help promising entrepreneurs get a foot on the ladder.
Once we have our economy back on its feet, we can start the long process of reforming our society. Of rebuilding the families that have remained fractured since Apartheid, and by eradicating the scourge of gender-based violence.
And finally, but arguably most important of all, we must fix our broken education so that our young people can gain the skills and the confidence to step out into the world with something to offer. If we want to break the hold that our brutal past still has over young people, then we have to start by giving them a quality education that prepares them for the future.
That is how we will write the new chapter of this country. So instead of dwelling on the past, let us rather look to the future and lay the groundwork for a new and shared vision for South Africa. And let us reform our politics according to the requirements for this new vision.
This is not an ideological debate. This is about ensuring that our Constitution protects the rights of all citizens. It is about charting a new course towards a strong centre, from where the state’s job is to enable a market-based economy to thrive, and also to be more inclusive.
This is the South Africa I want to build. This is the heritage I want for my children. Let us celebrate this day, let us respect each other and learn from each other, and let us stand tall as one united South Africa bound by one shared future.
Issued by the DA, 24 September 2019