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Speech by Deputy Minister Prof. Hlengiwe Mkhize, at the Heritage Day Celebration

Speech by the Deputy Minister of the Department of Telecommunications and Postal Services, Honourable Prof. Hlengiwe Mkhize,  MP

on the Occasion of Heritage Day Celebration 

at Pimville Community Centre Main Hall, 

on 12 October 2014.

 

Councillor Elizabeth Madika Mabasa,

Reinette Moabi, ZEC

Nomawethu Mfundisi, ZEC,

Beverly Adams, PCO Deployee

Daisy Mashego, PCO Deployee

Ladies and gentlemen

Comrades

 

Introduction

I would like to start off by thanking Councillor Mabasa for inviting me to be part of this year's heritage month commemoration. Often as South Africans we get into a celebratory mood on the 24 September of each year by remembering the cultural heritage of the many cultures that make up our population.

You will agree with me that culture is not something we are born with. It is learned from family, school, religious teachings and nowadays through television and other media. Indeed issues of culture and heritage are with us 365 days a year. Issues of heritage and culture are the cornerstone of nation building. A child is born into a cultural setting, with a rich heritage which, through the process of parenting and socialisation shapes her/his well being throughout the stages of life. Our culture instils in us norms and standards of relating towards each other and behaving in society as a whole. It shapes our identities as well. We all remember what uTata Nelson Mandela said when he addressed parliament in Cape Town on 05 February 1999, he called for the reconstruction of the soul of the nation, "the RDP of the Soul: by this we mean first and foremost respect for life; pride and self-respect as South Africans rather than the notion that we can thrive in senseless self-flagellation."

I believe he said this in realising that in reality there is a mismatch of what our culture teaches us versus our behaviours as society.

Heritage Month

You will recall that Minister Nathi Mthethwa launched Heritage Month 2014 in Gauteng on 31 August under the theme: “Celebrating 20 Years of Democracy: Tell Your Story that Moves South Africa Forward”. Key among the projects identified to advance the “Tell Your Story” campaign is the reburials of Nat Nakasa and Moses Kotane. These repatriations of unsung heroes provides us with an opportunity to learn more about their personal struggles, the circumstances that led to them living in exile and the impact they had on the liberation of our country.

Other events included National Book Week which runs from 1 to 7 September under the theme: “Going Places” focusing on the power of books and how they can ‘figuratively’ and ‘literally’ take South Africans to places. Events were organised in all the provinces and they included reading in indigenous languages, storytelling and motivational talks, word-a-thons, poetry sessions and book debates.

Our unique Heritage Month commemoration recognises aspects of our culture which are both tangible and intangible. These include creative expression such as music and performances, our historical inheritance, language, the food we eat as well as the popular memory.

Various heritage sites and infrastructures in South Africa are named after the liberation struggle icons, e.g. here in Gauteng we have:

•Luthuli House in Gauteng

•Tshwane Municipality in Gauteng

As a country we are home to eight of the 981 World Heritage Sites which are recognised by the United Nations Educational and Scientific Organisation as places of outstanding cultural and historical importance.

Some of these sites are:

•Robben Island

•The hominid sites at Swartkrans, Sterkfontein and Kromdraai (known as the Cradle of Humankind)

•Ukhahlamba-Drakensberg Park (mixed natural and cultural)

•Mapungubwe Heritage Site

•Cape Floral Kingdom

•Richtersveld Cultural and Botanical Landscape.

•Vredefort Dome.

These sites should teach us of the values that we should embrace as encapsulated in our constitution and our value system as a country. Our country offers a diversity and abundance of cultural and natural values that encapsulate the value systems of the country.

In addition to these sites, the country has 17 national heritage sites and the country is taking steps to protect more of its heritage sites. Some of the national heritage sites which falls within Gauteng are:

•Cradle of Human Kind - this is found in the northwest of Gauteng and has produced more fossils of our ancestors and their early relatives.

•Constitution Hill - this is the home to South Africa's Constitutional Court and also the site of the notorius Old Fort Prison Complex. It was at this place that thousands of people were brutally punished before the start of democracy in 1994. 

•The Freedom Park - this is the meeting place for the gathering of clans and nations. This is a place to listen to the voice of silence, a place to pray, a sacred place, a step to the heavens and to our humanity. This is a memorial and sanctuary conceptualised to pay tribute to those who made the ultimate sacrifice for human rights and their country during South Africa's turbulent history.

We are informed that government is in the process of declaring another historic place in the history of South Africa, Liliesleaf Farm in Rivonia, a heritage site.

Speaking at the 50th commemoration of the Liliesleaf Farm raid by the apartheid police President Jacob Zuma said preserving the site would contribute to the on-going process of national healing and the building of a more cohesive society. 

During the commemoration, President Zuma said it’s our joint responsibility to tell the story of the farm. “We all have a responsibility to ensure that the story of Liliesleaf and the Rivonia Trial is told in full for the benefit of current and future generations and that to ensure that the ideas born on this farm live forever”.

Let us all join in and help preserve and spread awareness of our heritage resources. They are not just symbols of our past, but they are the foundation for our future as well.

The power of a belief system and values in having impact at a broader scale cannot be ignored or underestimated. The youth of 1976 through the leadership of people such as Hector Peterson defended education system of the time and fought for quality education. Today we have monuments these heroes who set a trend in the whole world. 

Today we are witnesses of this trend that children should not be subject to poor education. As a country we have a good story to tell about our education system. Education in this country receives the lion's share of South Africa's national Budget. Twenty percent of government expenditure for the 2014/15 financial year has been allocated to education, and this amounts to R254-billion. 

During a media briefing to launch the FIFA World Cup Legacy Trust, the president said: "We want the children of Africa to remember the first Soccer World Cup on African soil as one that planted seeds of true universal access to education and a better life".

The Schools Connectivity Project has been identified as one of the legacy projects of the 2010 FIFA World Cup Project. This project came about from the savings derived by Telkom for the 2010 World Cup. As such the savings was used to connect 1650 schools. The savings amounted to R374.2m. This one of the key projects driven by my department, the Department of Telecommunications & Postal Services.

A lesson can be learnt from a young education activist and a 2014 Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzai. At the age of 17 years she is already in ranks of the likes of Archbishop Desmond Tutu and Tata Nelson Mandela. She triumphed from a specific cultural context which embroiled certain values. Against all odds she managed to stand out and showed extraordinary courage and continues inspire hope in the lives of other young girls. She openly objected to gender inequality and women oppression; and advocated for young girls' rights to education. She even got to a point where she was shot in a school bus for being vocal about issues which affected young girls and the right to equal chance to education as the boys counter parts.

Our youth should not be subject to the negative image they are been portrayed with, alcohol abuse, substance abuse and exposed to risk. As a nation we ought to learn from other cultures, look at our fellow Indian communities. They have been here since the past 150 years but in no way has their culture been diluted or influenced by our varied cultures. If you look at their education system, their houses of faith and their work ethic; they stick to their tradition throughout and that is the reason why they are successful. 

South Africa has been called the rainbow nation because it is made up of so many diverse cultures. Our own culture must be used to pursue reconciliation and social justice. Through our culture and religion we can amend the past social ills. We all know that in the past the colonial laws highly prejudiced our cultures and as a result they are now still underdeveloped.   

Values Enshrined in the Constitution

Our democracy is still at its youthful age and this gives us an opportunity as the society to sop up the values which our democracy subscribes to. We have our Constitution, promulgated in 1996, provides the foundations for building a democratic and inclusive state and is undeniably one of the most progressive in the world. It embodies the noble ideals of unity in diversity, and tolerance and respect for all our cultures and religions. Our Constitutions also promotes values such as truthfulness, openness and integrity as a basis of promoting aspects of our culture which underscores ubuntu. All of these values can be amplified through our cultural conduct and religion. 

It is through processes such as the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) that we have achieved the progress we are realising today as a nation. In any situation where hostility, violence and war have divided the people, made them enemies and there is distrust and misunderstanding prevailing amongst them; national reconciliation will be a precondition to building that nation.

The TRC was meant to show and teach the world true meaning of ubuntu. The emphasis was on forgiveness but at the same time holding people accountable and ensuring that this does not happen again.

Just two days ago TRC was revisited through a conference held at the Beyers Naudé Centre for Public Theology and the Faculty of Theology at Stellenbosch University (SU). The conference was held in collaboration with the Desmond and Leah Tutu Legacy Foundation. The conference was led by Archbishop Desmond Tutu and a high profile delegation of faith leaders in the form of a two day consultation on the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. As one of its aims the conference aimed at putting renewed energy, under the leadership of the faith community and civil society, on processes of reconciliation, social justice and reparations back on the national psyche.

Where to From Here

From the onset the celebrations of heritage day were meant to bring this rainbow nation together. How then do we say that we are building a nation if we still have high levels of violence as a nation? How do we say that we are building a nation if we still have high levels of child rape? How do we say that we are building a nation if we still have gruesome murders of young children?

We must cultivate within ourselves, our families and societies a culture of non-violence. We should come strongly against incidents such as the recent story of a woman who disappeared and is now unaccounted for, ongoing sexual violence against women and children. There is a saying which says: "Mmago ngwana o tshwara thipa ka bogaleng" indicating that a woman can do whatever to protect her children. This is the reason why we have countless number of women who died at the hands of their violent spouses.

We should also condemn acts such as the kidnapping of more than 200 girls in Nigeria and killing of people for purposes of making muti. Culture can be used to prevent against such kind of happenings within our society. Joining hands as men and women, we must as a nation strongly condemn gender based violence.  It does not matter how culturally diverse we are as a nation; each culture has an element of respect towards a fellow human being. 

Our indigenous knowledge and our belief systems can and must assist us in overcoming the challenge of gender-based violence. There is also a salient role which music can play to bring people together and reconciling them with their culture. This can be done through the message packaged in our cultural/traditional music aimed specifically on nation building.

Culture and Business Ethics

Our country is faced with the triple challenges of unemployment, poverty and high levels of inequality. An initiative which can be taken by communities is to bring about the entrepreneurial spirit within our communities. If this entrepreneurial spirit can be entrenched within our own culture, much can be achieved. This doesn't only have to be the case about the entrepreneurial spirit; our education system should be intertwined with our culture as well. Just have a look at how far communities such as the Jewish Community are. Look at the level of their education and how far they are in business. They have their values and ethics embedded into their education system. 

Ours is a delayed African Dream compared to how other cultures are progressing. We have had in the Black Economic Empowerment (BEE) policy which aimed at creating an equal society. This was however not reached as it only benefitted a few elites. The idea was to empower a certain part of the society which will in turn act as economic hubs which will be used to empower our communities further. Our dream of inclusive economic growth and an equal society is however timely and critical today.  

Economic Progress Made

Measured against average standards of living as reflected in real GDP per capita, South Africa has done quite well, with an increase of 33% since 1994. South Africa realised sustained acceleration in private sector investment from 8% of GDP in 1992 to 14% in 2008, after which it levelled off at 13% of GDP in response to the recession at that time. It is also important to note that our GDP is not growing as it is supposed to because of our weak economic inclusion policies.

Our inherent cultural values can also be used to brand South Africa by creating the work ethic which will result in radical inclusive economic activities and ultimately help us reach our job targets whilst realizing equity in our society and uprooting poverty completely. 

Our Own Heritage as an Economic Asset to Our Country

We acknowledge that there still some challenges with regards to relevant business skills and access to developmental finance. We are however pleading with our people especially women and the youth to persevere and make use of the available tools. The New Development Plan (NDP) which is the country's vision until 2030 encourages us to use our heritage and culture as an asset to generate employment. Our country is home to nine world heritage sites and an area of global niche tourism. According to the assessments made by the Planning Commission; culture, the arts and other parts of the creative economy have the potential to generate employment and export earnings. Foreigners from other countries visit South Africa to see, understand and learn about its peoples and cultures. The arts and related creative economy sector are thus an asset that needs investment to provide opportunities for more people, often outside of the formal economy. 

Department of Telecommunications & Postal Services Mandate

One of our core functions at the Department of Telecommunications & Postal Services is to contribute to the development of an inclusive information society. This is aimed at establishing South Africa as an advanced information-based society in which information and ICT tools are key drivers of economic and societal development.

We are also tasked with the duty of e-Skilling the nation for equitable prosperity and global competitiveness. We are working towards a point wherein all content will be available digitally. This will most importantly help in recording our cultural heritage so as to preserve it for our future generations. Schools are now acting as technological hubs; educational content is now available digitally. A cellular phone is no longer just a means of talking to another person but a source of digital information whereby people can gain access to a wealth of information on the internet.

Conclusion

In conclusion, I will like to encourage all of us to go back to basics and do things the way we know they should be done traditionally and culturally. Our rich heritage and culture should be used as an instrument to uphold high morals and standards in our society.

The continuing moral decline visible in actions such as alcohol abuse, substance abuse and risky behaviours can be countered with a strong cultural beliefs system. Women in particular should go back to basics. We are in most cases the first point of support to our children; we should therefore be a perfect example to them. 

Es’kia Mphahlele believed that the regeneration of African consciousness is essential to real African development and progress. African consciousness arises from the norms and values inherent in the traditional way of life. The education our children are receiving today should not alienate them from us, instead it should be such that our norms and values are reinforced.

As civil society, the Progressive Women's Movement of South Africa we have been challenged to support the back to basics strategy of local government. We are in full support of this strategy, which aims at turning around at least two thirds of the country’s municipalities over the next two years. I couldn't agree more with Minister Gordhan when he said: "Too many people say they need more money from the fiscus. There is no money from the fiscus. We need to use what we have to create opportunities and develop communities". It is our responsibility as communities to make use of our inherent cultural values to deal with everyday violent protests through conflict resolution and management in the African style, being prepared to listen and also to give and take. It is also important to honour our heritage by stopping once and for all corrupt practices when it comes to tender and job opportunities through things such as conflict resolution. 

Let us all commemorate heritage month with the promotion of human dignity in our minds whilst upholding the good value systems embodied in our various cultures. 

I thank you.