South African cultures have influenced each other even at a time when racial domination was scarring the country’s landscape, says Deputy President Kgalema Motlanthe.
Addressing hundreds of South Africans gathered at the main national Heritage Day celebrations at the Danie Kuys stadium in Upington on Monday, Motlanthe said cultural influences still managed to find outlets to decant into different social domains. “No culture in South Africa is pristine and no language is unaffected by the multi-lingual experience that has been the melting pot that is South Africa for years.
“The Afrikaans diction has been heavily influenced by indigenous languages as the indigenous languages themselves reflect English and Afrikaans influence in many respects. “Culture is a historical phenomenon whose development is determined by the succession of socio-economic formations,” he said.
From the Tshivenda minwenda, to Boere khakhi, to the Indian sari; to the Sesotho seshoeshoe, and Xitsonga xibelani South Africans proudly dressed in their colourful traditional clothes to show off their cultural uniqueness on a day when South Africa is united by diversity. According to the Deputy President, heritage day seeks to acknowledge the injuries of the past and the history which diminished the use and status of indigenous languages and free cultural expression.
“Celebrating heritage is part of our efforts of healing the divisions of the past and establishing a society based on democratic values, social justice and fundamental human rights. “Heritage Day reflects the values of a constitutional democracy where all South Africans’ cultural and linguistic rights are recognised and protected by the constitution,” he said.
Motlanthe said if in the past, the enemy was the oppressive system of apartheid, today the biggest enemy is the triple problem of poverty, inequality and unemployment. “While it is the primary duty of government to address the triple problems, it is also true that government needs social partnership to achieve the results. “All South Africans, black and white including business have to roll up their sleeves to uproot the conditions that engender and sustain poverty, inequality and unemployment,” he said.
The Deputy President also emphasised the need to open the doors of learning and culture to all. “We need to build on the culture of teaching and learning to produce thought leaders and technical skills that our economy needs for growth, development and reconstruction,” he said.
South Africa celebrates Heritage Day under the theme, “Celebrating the Heroes and Heroines of the Liberation Struggle in South Africa”. It is a day in which South Africans reflect and inter-relate culturally and think outside politics and identify themselves as South Africans. South Africa, a country full of rich and diverse culture, is officially celebrating this year’s Heritage Day in Upington, home to the Khoisan couple Klaas Pienaar and his wife Trooi who were repatriated from Austria in April and reburied in Kuruman in the Northern Cape.
The Pienaars’ bodies were illegally exhumed and shipped to Austria in 1909, where they became part of what is today described as racial “research” by Austrian scientist Rudolf Poch. After years of negotiation, an agreement was reached by both the South African and Austrian governments to return the Pienaars’ remains to their land of birth. Northern Cape acting Premier Grizelda Cjiekella said: “Most of us are in the late-afternoon stages of our lives, so we need to groom people who will take the baton from us when we depart and I’m glad that today they came to this event in their numbers,” she said.
Heritage Month and Day 2012 will promote inter-generational dialogue and encourage society to identify to reconnect with the past in order to shape the direction for the future.