The Acting Premier of Mpumalanga, Mr Madala Masuku;
Ministers and Members of Provincial Executive Councils;
Leaders of Political Parties Represented in Parliament;
Your Excellencies, Members of the Diplomatic Corps;
Mayors and Councillors;
Fellow South Africans:
Thank you for joining us on this important occasion to celebrate our National Heritage Day.
Today we connect with South Africans from all walks of life, wherever they may be gathered to mark this special day of tribute to our heritage as South Africans.
It is fitting that we host the national celebration of our heritage in Mpumalanga, a province that is endowed with the most ancient evidence of the human past.
The history and heritage of this province represents the microcosm of South Africa's richly diverse heritage today.
Today we are celebrating our heritage by recognising our historical development through a succession of socio-economic formations, from communalism to capitalism.
This heritage represents aspects of culture which encompass language, songs, dances, education, technology and implements, clothes, politics, religion, values and ideas that shape our broader South African identity.
We use this month to trace the evolution of South Africa's history through various epochs dating back from pre- and post-colonial times up to the demise of apartheid.
We hope that this noble task will serve to remind us that the past we inherit is part of the future we create..
We celebrate our heritage today mindful of the fact that South Africans, united in their diversity share one unique, national culture.
Our proud heritage is informed by the culture of people who originate from various parts of the world and who have brought with them values and knowledge that have over the years been blended into one melting pot that today makes us all South Africans, united in our diversity.
We are fortunate to be living on the tip of the most ancient continent that has over the years given unsparingly to the world since the arrival of early settlers from Europe, Malaysia, India, Indonesia and China to name but a few countries. They came as fortune-hunters, slaves, indentured labourers and immigrants.
Indeed there is a lot in our rich heritage that we should be extremely proud of whilst mindful of how our various cultures and folk law can be maximised to enhance our nationhood.
Part of our heritage is the cradle of humankind which qualifies us to be custodians of the first human ancestor Australopithecus Sediba in Maropeng- the place of origin.
Our geographical heritage includes mountain ranges that are older than the Alps or Himalayas, including the oldest rock formations, caves and the rock- art of the San and Khoi; and Mapungubwe which record and provide proof beyond doubt of earliest forms African human civilisation.
Most significantly, in 48 days time the world will consider Table Mountain in Cape Town as one of the two candidates from Africa for the coveted Seven Wonders of Nature title.
This multi-faceted heritage is also enriched by our biodiversity; hosting amongst others the Big Five and ten percent of the worlds flowering species. It is further bolstered by various arts and crafts handed down from generation to generation.
Fellow South Africans;
As a multi-cultural and multi-ethnic society we are aware of the dangers of retreating into our ethnic or racial cocoons, which militates against our strategic goal of creating a united, democratic, non-racial, non-sexist and prosperous nation. We should use this day to promote our common culture while at the same time sharing the understanding that this should unite us as South Africans.
As we know part of celebrating this heritage involves identifying with particular spaces and places, thus building and preserving monuments, songs as well as dance that mark important historical occurrences.
There are milestones in our history, both good and bad, which have nevertheless impacted on the character of the present in such profound ways that even those historical aspects such as the exclusivist Union of South Africa, the South African War (The so-called Anglo Boer War), and the Anti-apartheid struggles are building blocks of our collective history.
As such, we know that there is a lot about our history and heritage that is unsightly and ugly which is nonetheless embossed deeply on our national psyche and should be embraced through new ways of redefining ourselves as a people.
The cultivation of this heritage requires that we continue to use the arts, literature, and the naming of our architectural monuments and infrastructure in the spirit of a new nationhood.
It also requires the preservation of those monuments that may cause others pain, but are nonetheless part of who we are.
Informed by these principles, our government continues to value the transformative efforts of restoring the proud heritage of the indigenous people while at the same time diversifying our national heritage through inclusive and democratic processes.
In all, this day, and these efforts to redefine our national heritage, should be celebrated amongst all South Africans, black and white. It should also serve to annul the misconception that national days are the sole possessions of certain national groups.
Based on the common history that defines all of us, we must affirm that this Heritage Day seeks to remind us that we are all South Africans with a common national heritage.
Fellow South Africans;
Let us use this proud heritage for the revival of our civil duty to help shape a better future and more importantly to deepen our national unity.
It remains our key duty to address some of the glaring facets of racial, ethnic and socio-economic identities that still mar our socio-political landscape.
And therefore we must heighten the struggle to liberate ourselves from the clutches of poverty, unemployment, inequality and unbalanced social relations.
These challenges continue to undermine the process of social cohesion and often manifest themselves through racism, group marginalisation and pronounced ethnic chauvinism.
In addressing these challenges we must avoid the human frailties of elevating our personal passions above the common good for all South Africans.
We must remember that there are people who are comfortable with conserving the truths of yesterday. We should resist the temptation to allow such people to mislead us from building a cohesive South African nation.
We must, on this day, reignite our commitments to the principles enshrined in our constitution and Bill of Rights. It is important to know how to manage our dislikes, or disagreements by making conscious efforts to understand where they originate from.
But these noble ideals cannot be achieved unless we re-orientate our consciousness to give meaning to a new and common national heritage.
Consequently, we are of the view that all of us as government, civil society, business, sport and all other stakeholders have to deliberately use our national symbols, including the National Anthem, with a view to consolidating our national identity.
This must be done through promoting our tradition of oral narrations, poetry, dance, songs and site visits so as to reinforce our collective memory and national identity.
Informed by our Ubuntu/Botho principles, let us use our collective heritage to exploit the opportunities for uplifting our cultural skills, specialised knowledge in arts and crafts as important marketing bi-products for a wide range of industries such as tourism, film production, crafts and the green economy.
We need to harness these cultural products to create employment to help restore the dignity of all our people.
Universities, scholars and academics also have to take on these opportunities to develop our languages further and to tap into the rich source of African cultural ideas, knowledge forms and intellectual heritage.
Fellow South Africans;
Let me use this opportunity to remind all South Africans to stand up and be counted during this year's population census.
This 2011 Census will be the third census conducted by a democratic South African government and forms part of the 2010 round of African censuses which will provide comprehensive census data about our continent.
This census data will be used for improving planning, aiding development and creating a better life for all. Let us all support it
Happy Heritage Day!
We are confident that celebrating our heritage through the national call of "! KE E: / XARRA // KE” (Diverse People Unite!) will steel our resolve to build one, united nation!
I thank you.
ISSUED BY THE PRESIDENCY ON 24 SEPTEMBER 2011