Let tolerance be the order of the day

Monday, September 23, 2019

As the country celebrates Heritage Month, the Presiding Officers of Parliament have called upon all South Africans to embrace diversity and tolerance, and focus on what unites the nation.

Annual Heritage Day, which will be commemorated on 24 September, is a day set aside to celebrate the richness of South Africa’s unique cultures and history, where communities showcase their heritage through creative expressions of music and performance, education and contributing to the transfer of indigenous knowledge.

According to the United Nations Educational and Scientific Organisation (UNESCO), South Africa is home to eight of the 981 World Heritage Sites, therefore this is a time to embrace and visit the various heritage landscapes and sites.

The Presiding Officers -- Speaker of the National Assembly Thandi Modise and National Council of Provinces Chairperson Amos Masondo -- noted that the country’s diversity is reflected in the rich spread of languages. Approximately 25 different languages are spoken in the country, with 11 -- the majority being indigenous -- being recognised as official languages, including South African Sign Language.

“In a multilingual context, the provision of language facilitation services in the legislative sector, including translation and Sign Language, plays a pivotal role in facilitating and enhancing communication between communities and Parliament, thereby encouraging meaningful participation in Parliamentary processes,” Modise and Masondo said.

UNESCO has declared 2019 The Year of Indigenous Languages.

The Presiding Officers said every South African can freely express themselves in any of the official languages when participating in the work of Parliament, as translation services are readily available.

“We hope by the end of the Sixth Parliament, we would have achieved our goal of availing Parliamentary documents in all indigenous languages as this will ensure that all official languages are treated equitably and enjoy parity of esteem, as outlined in the Constitution.

“We urge South Africans to use the heritage celebrations as a time of reflection on how individually and collectively we have contributed, and the challenges still faced in promoting social cohesion and building our social compacts to promote peace, reconciliation and economic development,” the Presiding Officers said.

They appealed to all communities to preserve, restore and reclaim the country’s living heritage.

“In every community, there are living human treasures who possess a high degree of knowledge, skills and history about different aspects of diverse living that should be harnessed.”

Modise and Masondo said the recent attacks on fellow Africans and the killing of women and children are things the nation “should be ashamed of”.

“We trust that together, with the criminal justice system and our partners from across the spectrum, we will deal harshly with the perpetrators of violence and remain vigilant in reversing these bad trends,” the Presiding Officers said.

Significant street name change in Cape Town

Meanwhile, Agriculture, Land Reform and Rural Development Minister Thoko Didiza will deliver the keynote address during the District Six Heritage Festival and renaming of Kaizergracht Street.

“After being forcefully removed many years ago and moved to the Cape Flats, the people of District Six will have their dignity restored, with the renaming of Kaizergracht Street back to Hanover Street. 

“The historic street was the life-blood and nerve centre of District Six, which its people unfortunately had to bid farewell when they were forcibly removed,” said the Department of Agriculture, Land Reform and Rural Development.  

The Minister, together with the Mayor of Cape Town, will lead a procession at the Grand Parade as part of the District Six Heritage Festival. - SAnews.gov.za