Today we reflect and recognise who we are as South Africans

By James Masango MPL, DA Mpumalanga Leader:

The following speech was made by DA Mpumalanga Leader, James Masango MPL, in Thembisile Hani Municipality Mpumalanga, during Heritage Day celebrations.

It’s a great pleasure for me to celebrate Heritage Day in Thembisile Hani Municipality with the Chiefs from this area, community members from Thembisile Hani Municipality and other surrounding areas in Mpumalanga.

Today is a day to reflect back and recognise who I am.  Today South Africans have the opportunity to reconnect and celebrate their history. Heritage is not something that we celebrate once a month or in a day, but every day of our lives.

The DA believes in the dream of a rainbow nation. That’s why we are the most diverse party in the country. As I speak to you now, there are so many DA diverse Heritage events taking place across Mpumalanga, like here in Thembisile Hani.

Celebrating Heritage with diverse cultures is so important in learning and understanding each other’s cultures. South Africa can only move forward as one nation with one future, if we understand and accept our diverse background, culture and practices.

As Archbishop Desmond Tutu once said, “This day is known as South Africans celebrating their own diversity of Heritage.”

To describe the significance of Heritage in South Africa is a difficult task, as we all come from a mixture of different backgrounds. Yet, the definition of Heritage described as that which we inherit, the sum total of wild life and scenic parks, sites of scientific or historical importance, traditional monuments, historical buildings, works of art, literature and music, oral traditions and museum collections, together with their documents.

South African Heritage must be a combined celebration of all these contributing factors to our rainbow nation, and how all South Africans have worked to create this country and its history.  It is a day of celebrating the diversity that brings us together as a strong nation and not to be separated and divided by our cultural differences.

We all know the culture of Ubuntu.  Are we, as people who once “believed I am because you are” still upholding this important part of our heritage?  The simple answer is no.

South Africa is blessed with minerals and wildlife.  The world knows our country as a country of beauty and vast diversity of wildlife.  Yet again, I have to ask, can we as a country celebrate this blessing we received?

Our water systems are failing, raw sewage runs into rivers, harming fragile ecosystems and infecting the poorest of the poor.  Rhino poachers are running wild, killing and maiming hundreds of these endangered species every year.

Our mining industry has forgotten about the value of rehabilitation and our ecosystems, wetlands and rare bird life are on the brink of extinction.  Procedures to operate a mine are being ignored, and the health, safety and wellbeing of workers and citizens do not matter.  What matters to the mining moguls is how much and how quickly profit can be generated.

If we have to honestly answer this question:  Have we risen from the ashes of a painful past, as Nelson Mandela foresaw for this country?  Could we do better? So many have forgotten our Heritage and the pride of our history and the hopes and dreams of those who fought for a rainbow nation. So many in and around government today are driven by self-enrichment.  Caring is no longer a selfless act.

While the government should be supportive of our history and Heritage, it has not been the case with aMandebele ka Ndzundza.  This tribe has one of the richest and longest standing amongst the Ndebele tribes, built by visionary leaders such as the Kings, Nyabele, Mayisha, and Mabhoko, to name just a few.

These kings and their followers did not submit to those who threatened their lands, and they fought down to the last man in defense of their land.  One of the most important and most significant sites in their heritage is the cave at Konomjherhele nearby Roosenekal.

I am proudly South African, and I continue to believe in the values of Nelson Mandela and with the fighting spirit of Helen Suzman.  Let Heritage Day continue to be a day to commemorate our history, appreciate our country, and dream again about a renewed hope for our future.