Heritage Day remembered

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Mdantsane – South Africans across the country today marked Heritage Day, with Acting President Kgalema Motlanthe calling on citizens to celebrate their diverse cultures.

Thousands of people gathered at the local Sisa Dukashe Stadium in Mdantsane, outside East London, to be part of the activities. The occasion was also used to mark Mdansane’s 50th anniversary of establishment.

Home to more than 500 000 South Africans, Mdantsane is one of the oldest townships in South Africa, and was the hotbed of political activism against the apartheid system.

Traditional leaders, provincial government officials and leaders of political parties representing Parliament were among those present at today’s event.

Earlier in the day, Motlanthe commemorated the Egerton Massacre by unveiling a memorial and laying a wreath at the site where 11 people died and 36 were injured in 1983. The bus boycott, which started on 4 August 1983 at Egerton Railway Station, resulted in the shooting and beating of residents by homeland government officials, known as the Green Berets. Communities embarked on the boycott to protest an unannounced five cent increase in bus fares.

“We celebrate this heritage with the conscious understanding that there is a great deal about our history that is bad and hurtful. Yet we must accept it as part of the growing pains of the free society we set out to create in 1994 -- a society that is united, democratic, non-racial, non-sexist and just,” Motlanthe told the crowd.

SAnews asked locals why commemorating the day was important.

Sipho Masombuka, 22, said celebrating Heritage Day was important to bring South Africans together.

“Ours is a unique country. We may be different … and speak different languages, but we have a common heritage and it is very important on occasions like this to remember that.”

Olwethu Mzaca, 30, said Heritage Day was not only about celebrating different cultures and South African heritage, but it was also a reminder that South Africa was now a free country.

“Before, you could not just come together like this and celebrate your oneness - it was outlawed. Apartheid was all about divide and rule. But today, we say we as South Africans are proud of who we are and where we are.”

Motlanthe said at the gathering that South Africans needed to strive to tell “our narratives” not only through monuments, memorials and museums that reflect the national democratic change of post-apartheid South Africa, but also by improving the overall quality of life of South Africans.

The heritage project, he said, must be inclusive of the names, languages, places, people and cultures that were manipulated and falsified to bring about division.

“These transformative processes are critical and necessary for allowing communities to reclaim their heritage, identifying past mistakes and growing together as a nation.”

South Africa needed to look at both naming and renaming of public spaces in a broadly consultative manner, consonant with democratic ethos.

Unity of all South Africans was a guiding principle, which should never be undermined by “sectarian and parochialinterests”.                                                                                            

“Heritage Day provides South Africans with the opportunity to promote national symbols, which are central to the redefinition of a new era and identity that expresses the hopes and aspirations of our nation,” said Motlanthe.

Leaders of political parties urged South Africans to unite in their diversity.

“We may speak different languages and we may be coming from different backgrounds but we all share one culture, and that is the South African culture,” said Smuts Ngonyama of COPE.

He called on those gathered at the stadium to be tolerant towards other cultures and end xenophobia and racism.

IFP leader Mangosuthu Buthelezi said South Africa was a better place since 1994, thanks to the Constitution that allows the celebration of the country’s diverse cultures and heritage. - SAnews.gov.za 



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