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Celebrating the Heroes and Heroines of the Liberation Struggle in South Africa

Address by the Minister of Arts and Culture, Mr Paul Mashatile, on the occasion of the debate of Heritage Month at the National Assembly, Cape Town, 4 September 2011

Honourable Speaker

Honourable Members

Fellow South Africans:

Thank you for the opportunity to debate the important matter of this year’s Heritage Month celebrations.

In his article titled The Native Union published in 1911 Pixley ka Isaka Seme wrote;

“There is today among all races and men a general desire for progress, and for co-operation, because co-operation will facilitate and secure that progress.”

This iconic African intellectual of our liberation struggle continues to say:

“the greatest success shall come when man shall have learned to co-operate, not only with his own kith and kin but also with all peoples and with all life.”

These prophetic words laid the foundation for the formation of Africa’s oldest liberation movement, the African National Congress.

These words also spoke of a vision of the kind of society we seek to build.

This is a National Democratic Society; a society that is united, non racial, non sexist, democratic and prosperous.

The pursuit of the goal of building a National Democratic Society, remains at the core of our struggle to transform our society.

This struggle which has a rich and diverse history has produced many heroes and heroines to whom this year’s Heritage Month celebrations are dedicated.

Honourable Members, the history of our national liberation struggle belongs to all the people of South Africa.

It is who we are. It is the source of our national pride. It is our historic mission therefore to preserve it.

In our resolve to preserve our national liberation heritage we must honour all those who authored this history, by taking part in the struggle to free our country.
This we must continue to do because our freedom can never be taken for granted.

We must continue to honour those men and women whose love for their country and its people motivated them to sacrifice, even their lives, for freedom.

These patriots were inspired by the words of Pixley ka Isaka Seme that: “the greatest success shall come when man shall have learned to co-operate, not only with his own kith and kin but also with all peoples and with all life.”

Honourable Speaker, it is for these reasons that this year’s Heritage Month is dedicated to reaffirming the significance of our national liberation struggle as part of our country’s cultural heritage.

Throughout this month, we remind ourselves that our liberation came at an enormous cost and that it produced heroes and heroines, worthy of recognition and honour.

As we celebrate Heritage Month, we draw inspiration from the early resistance movement led by unsung heroes and heroines, such as Kings, Chiefs and Warriors.

We remember those brave fighters that took part in the Bambatha rebellion, the Pondo revolt, and the Frontier Wars of resistance against dispossession.

We are also reminded of those who suffered and fell during the Boer Wars and we reiterate that these unfortunate incidents also form part of our heritage.

We honour those who in 1955 declared boldly that South Africa belongs to all who live in it: Black and White.

We also honour the heroic women of 1956 who pioneered the struggle for gender equality in our country.

We salute the youth of 1976 and subsequent generations who rendered the apartheid state ungovernable.

We pay tribute to the workers who took the struggle for liberation to every factory and shop floor as well as to every farm.

Honourable Members, our understanding of the heroes and heroines of our national liberation struggle goes beyond those who directly took part in that struggle.

It includes artists, who used their creative talent and vision to draw attention to the realities and demands of our national liberation struggle.

We refer here to icons such as; Sol Plaatjie, Alex la Guma, Mazisi Kunene, Mama Miriam Makeba, Zakes Mokae, Winston Mankunku Ngozi and many others.

Heroes and heroines of our liberation struggle also include those in the sporting fraternity who ensured that the apartheid state was isolated from the international community.

They include those of our sports men and women who even under the most difficult conditions, excelled in what they did.

Heroes and heroines of our liberation struggle also include members of faith based organizations and a number of traditional leaders from whom our struggle drew support and moral guidance.

The contribution of these sectors reasserts that our liberation struggle was indeed non racial, multi-class and that it was fought on many fronts.

As we celebrate our heroes and heroines, we must recommit ourselves to the ideals for which they stood and fought for so bravely.

Our ultimate goal should be to build a society where; “man shall have learned to co-operate, not only with his own kith and kin but also with all peoples and with all life.”

Honourable Speaker, as part of celebrating our heroes and heroines, the Department of Arts and Culture has begun a process of identifying sites that are of significance to the national liberation struggle.

Many of these sites will form part of the National Liberation Heritage Route whose concept document has been submitted to Cabinet for approval.

We are also embarking on a programme to honour our national icons.

These are men and women who taught us never to abandon the cause of freedom.

Honourable Members, as we embark on this journey, I am reminded of words from a poem by the father of the Cuban nation, Jose Marti, titled: I dream of cloisters of marble.

In this poem Marti dreams of a world where the sculptures of dead heroes of the Cuban revolution come alive.

“I dream of cloisters of marble
Where in silence divine
Heroes are upright sleeping.

I speak to them at night
At night by the light of soul!”

Marti continues to write;

“Then the eyes of stone are open,
I see moving lips of stone,
Beards of stone are trembling,
They grip a sword of stone and cry”

He concludes the poem by saying:

“The stone resounds,
The white hands reach down to touch their belt,
And then from high on the pedestal,
The men of marble leap down!”

Honourable Speaker, we will remember these heroes and heroines of our people by erecting monuments in their honour.

We will also build museums that will tell the stories of their lives of bravery and courage to current and future generations.

As we preserve our liberation heritage, we must be mindful of those who seek to rewrite and distort our history.

This they do in particular to wish away the existence of the liberation struggle, its values and its traditions.

We must continue to remind them that the national liberation struggle is part of our country’s collective memory, our rich history and heritage.

Without fear or favour we must reaffirm our liberation heritage as part of the broader cultural heritage of our country.

This we must do as part of contributing to national healing, national dialogue, reconciliation, nation building, social cohesion and an inclusive citizenship.

Equally, we must work hard to promote and defend our democratic constitution, the Bill of Rights, our national symbols, the national flag and the national anthem; all of whom are the results of our liberation struggle.

In this regard, the Department of Arts and Culture will in the coming months intensify its campaign to hoist the national flag in every school and every public building.

We will also continue to encourage South Africans to hoist the national flag in their own homes and business.

Efforts will also be intensified to ensure that all South Africans know how to sing the national anthem properly.

This will include publishing guidelines on how the national anthem should be sung and observed.

Honourable Members, let us use our liberation heritage as a vehicle to make new and decisive advances as we build a South Africa of our dreams, a society we can all be proud of, a society that takes prides in its history and heritage.

Thank you.

FOR MORE INFORMATION, CONTACT: Percy Mthimkulu at 082 389 2684 or Mack Lewele at 082 450 5076.

Source: DAC website

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