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Address by President Cyril Ramaphosa on the occasion of Heritage Day

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Deputy President David Mabuza,
Minister of Sports, Arts and Culture, Mr Nathi Mthethwa,
Ministers and Deputy Ministers,
Premier of Gauteng, Mr David Makhura,
Executive Mayor of Tshwane, Mr Randall Williams,
Religious and Traditional Leaders,
Our nation’s artists whom we celebrate today,
Distinguished guests,
 
Fellow South Africans, 
 
Dumelang. Sanibonani. Avuxeni. Ndi masiari. Lotshani. Goeie middag. 
 
Heritage Day is always cause for celebration. 
 
It is the day when we appreciate the rich, diverse and common cultural heritage that makes us Proudly South African.
 
It is an opportunity for us to wear the attire that is unique to our respective cultures, to invite friends and family over for a home-cooked traditional meal, to play traditional music and to pay tribute to those who came before us.
 
Just as we celebrate where we have come from, we know that culture continues to evolve, adapt and change. 
 
Just as traditional cultural dress has been adapted into modern fashion, and contemporary music is infused with cultural strains, many South Africans today will be wearing the colours of a national sports team or gathering for a braai. 
 
No matter our race, ethnicity, language or religion, there is no right or wrong way to observe Heritage Day. 
 
What matters most is that we are taking the time to celebrate our South Africanness.
 
Days such as this remind us that unity in diversity is our greatest strength as a nation.
 
At a time when so many parts of the world are being torn apart by division, by ethnicity, language and religion, we can hold our heads high. 
 
Yes, we may have our differences, but when it comes down to it, we are South Africans first and foremost. 
 
We respect one another. Siyahloniphana. Ons respekteer mekaar. Ri a thonifhana. Re a hlomphana.
 
We know that cultural pride and expression is never an excuse for chauvinism, for ideas of ethnic superiority, for tribalism, for xenophobia or for misogyny.
 
This year we are using Heritage Month to celebrate South African indigenous music and in particular the legacy of Solomon Popoli Linda. 
 
We chose this theme to acknowledge the role that indigenous music, especially isicathamiya, played in the lives of our people during the dark days of colonialism and apartheid. 
 
Indigenous music didn’t just entertain and comfort the dispossessed black majority, it also mobilised and united them. 
 
In the township community halls, the marketplaces, the beer halls and the open fields where groups like the Evening Birds led by Solomon Linda performed classics like iMbube were places where important political conversations about the state of our country took place.
 
Because of its ability to bring people together, unite them and encourage discussion, indigenous music helped shape our present reality of a free and democratic society.
 
Our artists used song and dance to transmit messages most effectively in ways that conventional channels could not. 
 
We therefore have a moral responsibility to preserve this music and to protect those who create it. 
 
The tragedy that befell Solomon Linda, the great injustice that was done to him, must never again visit any of our artists.
 
Though he composed and recorded many songs, iMbube was his best known one. 
 
South Africa was still a British colony when difficult circumstances made him sell the rights to the song to a record company. 
 
It is said it was sold for a mere 10 shillings. In today’s currency that is less than one US dollar. It was a robbery.
 
This song has given joy to so many people throughout the world and put millions into the pockets of music producers, but Solomon Linda died impoverished in Soweto in 1962.
 
It has been adapted over the years by many western artists, earning them royalties that Solomon Linda never got in his lifetime. It was only in 2004 that his daughters brought a successful lawsuit against the Walt Disney Company.
 
We would like to believe this was an isolated case but it is not. 
 
We would like to believe that times have changed, and that artists, especially musicians, are no longer being exploited and deceived by those out to make money at their expense. But this still persists. 
 
In the colonial era cultural symbols, artefacts, music, art and literature were brazenly stolen from Africa. 
 
In today’s modern age, this exploitation has taken new forms such as plagiarism, cultural and intellectual property appropriation and copyright theft. 
 
Struggling artists are taken advantage of and strong-armed into giving up their rights and their royalties.
 
That is why we are redoubling our efforts to preserve our heritage and protect our artists. 
 
Through their songs, dance, paintings, storytelling, sculptures and other form of art, artists carry on their shoulders the heavy responsibility to transmit our heritage from one generation to another. 
 
Artists must therefore be paid their dues.
 
In honour of Solomon Linda and his legacy, let us ensure that our artists do not suffer in their lifetimes and are not condemned to dying in poverty.
 
The new Copyright Amendment Bill passed by the National Assembly at the beginning of this Heritage Month will go a long way in protecting our artists and towards addressing their concerns about the collection and distribution of royalties.
 
We are determined to use the law where necessary to preserve our cultural heritage. 
 
We also need to defend and preserve our indigenous languages. 
 
Government is supporting several lexicography units at institutions of higher learning in terminology development for African languages. 
 
We have paid specific attention to the Khoi and San languages.
 
Today we have candidates successfully submitting their Masters dissertations and Doctoral theses in African languages, irrespective of the field of study. 
 
This would have been unheard of in the past. 
 
The incremental Introduction of African Languages policy in our schools is having the desired impact, challenging the notion that knowledge of English is enough to progress in our society.
 
We ought always to remind ourselves of the centrality of our heritage to the health of our nation’s soul. 
 
While today we are shining the spotlight on our indigenous music and its legendary creators, our heritage is much more than indigenous music. 
 
Our heritage is also the best version of ourselves that we seek to become.
 
I am referring here to Ubuntu, which speaks to our innate spirit of generosity and human solidarity. 
 
It speaks to our compassion and kindness towards other people, especially those less fortunate, and also to those from foreign lands who have sought refuge here.
 
We are, as South Africans, a friendly and hospitable people and it is inconsistent with our values to be xenophobic. 
 
I am proud that at many workplaces, schools and institutions, our brothers and sisters from other countries have joined the heritage celebrations.
 
As Africans we are one people with a shared history and a common destiny. 
 
Among the most important values that define us as a people is our utmost respect for women and the elderly. 
 
The historical position of women in our traditional communities is a far cry from the present-day toxic notions of masculinity and patriarchal relations of power.
 
In their wisdom our forebears attached great power to positions of women in our family structures, such as Rakgadi, Dado’Bawo, Makhadzi and the like. 
 
There is no part of the heritage of any South African community that permits men to demean women or impose their will on women through violence. 
 
On this day, when we celebrate our heritage, we must look deep within ourselves and return to the positive values of our communities.
 
By restoring the values that we celebrate on Heritage Day, we will put an end to the culture of rape and the scourge of gender-based violence and femicide. 
 
We will care for our children as we must and never abuse them. 
 
We will value and cherish the elderly and give them the respect they have earned through many years of hard work and sacrifice. 
 
Parents will once again take responsibility for all children in their community and not look away in the face of their misbehaviour.
 
Some people may ask how can we celebrate our heritage at a time when so many South Africans are facing such great hardship?
 
They may ask how can we celebrate through dance and music and art at a time when our country is being plunged into darkness through load shedding, when so many people have lost their jobs due to the COVID pandemic and when families are struggling with the rising cost of living?
 
Yet, it is a times like this that our heritage becomes even more important.
 
We are a nation with a heritage defined by struggle, by courage, by perseverance, by a determination to overcome even the greatest challenge.
 
And so let us call on this heritage as we confront the difficulties that confront our country today.
 
Let us work together to implement the far-reaching measures that will end load shedding, that will rebuild our economy and that will create jobs.
 
Let us recognise the progress that is being made in transforming our society and draw on the experiences of years gone by to intensify our efforts to address these challenges and build a better life for all our people. 
 
On this Heritage Day, I would like to call on our media, especially radio and TV stations, to play indigenous music and to discharge their broader responsibility towards social cohesion and nation building.
 
Now and in the future, let us enjoy our indigenous music. 
 
Let us fully embrace ourselves and one another.
 
Let us embrace this rich tapestry of history, culture and heritage.
 
For in our heritage lies our strength.
 
To all South Africans, wherever you are, wherever you came from, whatever you believe and whatever language you speak, I wish you a happy Heritage Day.
 
I thank you.