By Sport, Arts and Culture Minister Zizi Kodwa
Following the record-breaking fourth Rugby World Cup title win by the Springboks, South Africa’s national men’s rugby team, President Cyril Ramaphosa declared 15 December 2023 a public holiday to celebrate the team’s momentous achievement. It is fitting that this celebratory holiday occurs during Reconciliation Month and a day before Reconciliation Day, which is dedicated to fostering reconciliation and strengthen unity in the country.
The theme for 2023 Reconciliation Month is “Strengthening Unity and Social Cohesion in a Healing Nation”. This theme acknowledges South Africa’s continuing journey of healing from past injustices and overcoming current challenges. The theme also underscores the important role of Department of Sport, Arts and Culture in fostering national unity and social cohesion. South Africa’s creatives, cultural practitioners, and athletes play an important role in uniting the country and sharing with the world the essence of South Africa as a country that values unity and social cohesion. This has been clear to see in 2023, in what has been a significant year for South African sport, arts and culture.
The year began with the Proteas Women’s national cricket team reaching the Women’s Cricket T20 World Cup for the first time on home soil and has been heightened by the Springboks’ record-breaking Rugby World Cup victory. South Africa has also hosted several mega-events such as the Netball World Cup and the World Rowing Regatta. Also, Banyana Banyana made the country proud by reaching the FIFA Women’s World Cup Round of 16, the first time a senior South African national football team – men or women – progressed from the FIFA World Cup group stages. The Proteas Men’s national cricket also made the nation proud by reaching the semifinals of the 2023 Men’s Cricket World Cup.
It has also been an eventful year on the creative and artistic front. South African amputee dancer, Musa Motha brought judges and crowds to tears with breakthrough performances in the Britain's Got Talent competition. Opera singer Pretty Yende continued to raise the country’s flag high on the world’s operatic stages and performed at the coronation of the United Kingdom’s King Charles III. South Africa’s Amapiano musicians have taken the genre to even greater heights internationally. Musicians Zakes Bantwini, Wouter Kellerman and Nomcebo Zikode won a Grammy Award this year, while Trevor Noah, Tyla, Just 6 and Musa Keys all received nominations for the 2024 Grammy Awards. Grammy Award-winning DJ and producer Black Coffee also made history when he performed at Madison Square Gardens in New York, becoming the first South African DJ or producer to achieve such a feat. Dr John Kani, who has received countless awards, was the fifth recipient of the Department of Sport, Arts and Culture’s Van Toeka Af Living Legends series, and received further recognition internationally this year.
South Africa’s creative artists and athletes inspire and unite communities, giving expression to a winning nation. We have seen this in the way creative artists incorporate the country’s diverse cultures in their craft, and how South Africans and international audiences embrace and celebrate our diverse culture and creative talent. Our athletes also inspire unity with their excellence and unity. The most vivid example is that of the Springboks, who not only show how far South African sport has come in being representative of the country’s diverse population, but also enjoy great support across all backgrounds and generations in the country.
Government has been working hard to deepen the role of sport, arts, and culture to build national unity and to foster social cohesion in communities. One of the priorities has been to develop sport at grassroots level through the building of multipurpose sports facilities in rural and township schools and staging summer and winter school sport festivals. This year, we also convened a national school sport indaba to unify country’s school sport sector and establish a blueprint for school sport. Our community art centres also provide a space for communities to practice and showcase their creative art talent.
As we mark Reconciliation Month, let us continue to remember how far we have come as a country to unite in our rich diversity. Let us continue to use sport and the creative sector to strengthen unity and social cohesion. I call on all sport federations, clubs, and community art centres to take sports and the arts to communities.
The late former President Nelson Mandela said that sport unites people in ways little else can. Madiba would be proud to see the impact of sport and arts in building unity in the country. As South Africa continues its healing journey, let us use sport and the creative arts to help us on this journey to build the united and cohesive South Africa we desire. This momentum is especially important as we enter 30 years since the dawn of South Africa’s democracy.
*This message was first published in Public Sector Manager magazine: https://www.gcis.gov.za/content/resource_centre/news_and_mags/public_sector_magazine