OPINION

Let us remember the colonialist disruptions of African way of life - David Mabuza

DP says we must also recognise and celebrate one another, and share in the change that is yet to come

Address by His Excellency Acting President David Dabede Mabuza in commemoration of the National Heritage Day held at Kokstad, KwaZulu-Natal Province. 24 September 2018

Programme Director;

Deputy Minister of Arts and Culture;

Premier of KwaZulu-Natal;

Members of Cabinet and Provincial Executive Councils;

Mayors and Councillors;

Members Parliament, Legislatures and Traditional Councils;

Representatives of Civil Society and Leaders of Political Parties;

Distinguished Guests;

Ladies and Gentlemen;

Fellow South Africans:

Thank you for joining us on this special day to celebrate our national Heritage Day. 

We have gathered here on the slope of this majestic Drakensberg, which is the original land of the Griqua.

It is here behind the cooling shades of Mount Currie, here on the lands of the conquered, at this place of refuge for the Griqua, the descendends of King Shaka, the children of Adam Kok and those who may have come by sea to settle on our shores that we meet to celebrate our common heritage.

Earlier today, we honoured the great Adam Kok III with the renaming of the Greater Kokstad municipality building after his name as well as the unveiling of his statue. 

We are here to remember the history of our country and the proud heritage that defines our being as a people. We meet on this soil to claim our identity, our sense of self, and all that makes and defines us as a united, non-racial, non-sexist South Africa that constantly strives for a just and prosperous society.

We have come here to pay tribute to all those who came before us in making a South Africa of our dreams that is united in diversity. We come to celebrate our heritage and to wallow in this spring of our diversity with a single objective of raising the sun of hope that UNITY, despite all our differences, is our defining strength.

It is no coincidence that we descend on these shores of Kokstad to spend this special day in this beautiful town, which is a representation of a kaleidoscope of culture, history, totems, heritage and a multi-feast of traditions.

There are few places than Kokstad that can lay claim to being a melting pot of cultures and a place of common heritage as this town does.

Few are so special as to host, as this Harry Gwala District does, the expanses and cusps of Matatiele, the cultural diversity of the Khoi and the San, Basotho, AmaZulu, AmaXhosa, the Voortrekers and Missionaries from the Cape. The choice of naming this district after one of the greatest revolutionaries of our time, Bab’u Gwala, is indeed remarkable. 

This is a town that has survived to be a common place for our multi-faceted national identity as South Africans. A place to find a South African from all walks of life.

Sadly, as much as this day is fixed in the calendars, it is particularly angst that we commemorate this day as a nation in mourning. We have lost the precious life of Minister Edna Molewa.

Mme Molewa was a gallant fighter of our freedom, who at the time of her passing served as our Minister of Environmental Affairs. Ms Molewa was an outstanding servant of our people. She possessed extraordinary skills as an organiser, a thinker, a strategist, a leader with the common touch – grounded in the plight and aspirations of our people.

She was an internationalist and an environment activist par excellence. She understood that nature conservation was equally about the preservation of our heritage.

We express our heartfelt condolences to her family, friends, Cabinet colleagues and her political home the African National Congress. Her fighting spirit will remain our guiding force. May her revolutionary and caring soul, rest in eternal peace.

Similarly, I also wish to convey our sincere condolences, on behalf of President Cyril Ramaphosa and our Government, to His Majesty King Goodwill Zwelithini - Isilo’ samaBandla, uHlanga Lomhlabathi and iNdlunkulu, the Zulu Royal House, on the passing of Prince Butho Zulu.

His passing makes this day all the more wrought with a twist of pain, a spear to the heart, as the Zulu nation would have celebrated with us in part the commemoration of King Shaka’s Day. Sithi akwehlanga olungehlanga Ngonyama yeSizwe.

Fellow South Africans;

On this day, I wish to bring you a message of UNITY. This is Unity in Diversity, Unity in our families, Unity in our communities, Unity in our nation and Unity in our politics across all lines.

As it is written in our Seal of State and Coat of Arms, written in the Khoisan language of the /Xam people, we have to tell you - diverse people unite!

For we are meeting at a time in our history, when the divisions of our past, when our heightened sense of retreat to the past threatens national unity.

Even though there is no need for divisions, for if we hold our hands together in addressing the imbalances of the past, we are guaranteeing future generations a prosperous South Africa worthy of inheritance.

It is understandable that human beings are prone, in times of national strife, in times of bitter socio-economic hardship, in times of hard debates about land reform, to retreat easily into narrow nationalist, racial and ethnic enclaves. However, I stand in front of you on this day to state with conviction that this path we have chosen, is the correct one. It is the path that will UNITE our nation and one that will help us to forge a common nationhood.

As it is said in the famous observation by popular philosopher, Coleridge that “He who begins by loving Christianity better than Truth, will proceed by loving his own sect or Church better than Christianity, will in the end love himself better than all.”

And so we are bound by human weakness to that which emphasises difference instead of common nationhood.

We know that divisions fester in hopelessness. We know that where there is no unity, we seek safety amongst the like-minded, instead of pursuing unity even with those with whom we differ.

Dear South Africans, let us not even for a minute doubt the power of UNITY as an important pillar of building an equal society that we should all strive for.

Despite our fears we must remember that the land is vast, our soil is rich, the belly of our earth is pregnant with hope and possibility, our minerals are overflowing and our oceans are teeming with potential.

Ours is a land of abundance. It can provide for everyone. There is enough to go around, enough to share, enough to end poverty, depravation and all forms of want. All we must do, is live up to our potential under a just and equitable system. This is what our common heritage means.

We have enough to create wealth, prosperity, opportunity and development for all. This is what our stalwarts Tata Nelson Mandela and Mama Albertina Sisulu envisioned. This is what we must accomplish. 

Yet, our people still cannot sow to reap. They cannot work the land to own it. They have no means of production and no heritage to fully embrace and benefit from.

We must refuse to hold too tightly to a past rooted in pain. We must never allow ourselves to be beholden to the pains of yesterday, more than we are to the promises of a better tomorrow.

We must never be so bound fast to days gone by, that we cannot see the infinite possibility of a new dawn.

We must never be blinded by hate and fear to the very promise of a united non-racial, non-sexist, just and prosperous South Africa that our forebears fought so hard to attain.

On this Heritage Day, as we consider the distance we have travelled as a people, it would be apt to search deep within the reservoirs of our souls, for the Dream that Tata Madiba and Mama Sisulu fought for throughout their lives.

As we consider debates on the richest sources of our pride and heritage, as we consider models to redress land dispossession and how to make meaningful land reform, we must ask whether we can cultivate a common heritage that will ultimately lead us to a single nationhood.

On this Heritage Day we must commit to a journey of UNITY and STRUGGLE for a common nationhood.

We must remember the rich heritage of the struggle and sacrifice of traditional leaders such as King Shaka and Adam Kok who fought against colonialism. We must remember the heritage of South African women like Mama Sisulu and Mme Edna Molewa which teach us of the importance of unity in pursuance a common future that is founded on humanity and equality.

On this Heritage Day, we stand united in our diversity, as we remember how we came to believe in the possibility of a united, non-racial, non-sexist, just and prosperous South Africa.

We must remember and believe in the brave battles fought by our legendary Kings and Queens, King Shaka, Queen Mantatise, King Sekhukhune and many others. 

We must remember and celebrate the ancient civilisation of Mapungubwe and their infinite ties to the rest of Africa and the world, and the fib they make of the history of African development.

It is these elements of our civilisation that we should develop and hold so dear as anchors of tourism. 

For it is right to remember these struggles and triumphs so that we too can believe in building a united country.

Perhaps too, we are bound to the memory and struggles of these great South Africans. If  nothing else, we must  avoid the insidious repetitions of history and the endless bounds of human cruelty and marginalisation that were endured by some, whilst effecting prosperity for others.

We must also remember the heritage of those who bravely fought in the South African wars. Some perished at the sinking of the SS Mendi for example. Yet others perished in the Battles of Delville Hood. Their remit was to fight for our dignity, to plead for humanity and to communicate our sage commitment to a common humanity. Their efforts, rebuffed as they were, remain lode stars to our common humanity.

But we remember too, the bloodshed between the British and the Afrikaner on these very shores.

We must remember that they too counted the descendants of the Dutch, the French, the British-settlers, the fortune hunters, the gold-diggers and the cane cutters who came here either to seek wealth out of the richness of our land or as indentured labourers.

They are a part of us as we are part of them. We relate to  their history as they should relate to the history of all the dispossessed. 

On this day, let us remember our heritage in a manner that unites us in our diversity.

Let us carry ourselves with grace and not the agonies and accumulated burdens of a past rooted in pain.

Let us remember the decimation of African values and colonialist disruptions of the African way of life. But let us recognise and celebrate one another, let us share in the change that is yet to come.

On this Heritage Day, let us remind each other of the complexities of our heritage, let us share and teach each other about the journeys we have travelled together as a people, for us to arrive at this freedom and democracy.

Let us speak about the future, the steps, and the difficult road we must still travel together.

Let us remind one another that a person’s heritage should not be exclusionary but be all embracing of others. As we celebrate this important day, we must confront with determination, the historical fault lines and injustices that continue to threaten our peace and stability so that we can finally move forward as one people, one nation and one South Africa founded on shared values.

If we do not confront this reality and sad state of affairs, we would just be burying our heads in the sand and causing a huge source of frustration and resentment to all those who were brutally dispossessed of their land.

Today’s gloomy day must end and a new dawn must rise. I wish you all a memorable National Heritage Day.

!ke e: /xarra //ke - Diverse people unite.

I thank you.

Issued by the Presidency, Pretoria, 24 September 2018