Address by Nkosi ZMD Mandela, MP on the occasion of the Heritage Day Debate under the theme “Celebrating our cultural diversity in a democratic South Africa”and sub-theme “Transforming culture and its political economy,” delivered at the National Assembly of the Parliament of the Republic of South Africa

21 September 2023

Honourable Chairperson,
Honourable Members,
Respected Members of the Media,
Ladies and gentlemen,
Comrades and friends:

Molweni, Dumelang, Good Afternoon, Goeie Middag, and greetings of peace and diversity to all of you.

Honourable chairperson,

I couldn’t help but be reminded of two powerful events in the early days of our transition to democracy that captured the essence of the today’s theme, “Celebrating our cultural diversity in a democratic South Africa”.

The past few weeks since the start of Rugby World Cup has kept us riveted to our phones, tablets, laptops, televisions and big screens as a nation united in support of Amabhokobhoko! It provided good reason to reminisce those wonderful moments when the nation in all its diversity stood together as one.

No irony was lost on the fact that nobody believed that South Africa could achieve a peaceful transition to democracy given its painful and traumatic past characterised by centuries of colonialism and decades of Apartheid in which the fundamental human dignity of the majority of South Africans was denied.

Nobody could believe that out of extra-judicial killings, hit squads, impimpis, vigilantes, murders, assassinations, life incarceration, interogation, torture and exile, a new nation could come together as one.

On the 27th April 1994 it happened and set in motion a process that has had highly elated and emotional episodes that bared the soul of the nation.

We first repeated that magic in the 1995 World Cup when inspired by Madiba wearing the number 6 Springbok jersey, Franscois Pienaar led his team and indeed the entire nation to victory in the Rugby World Cup against all odds.

Perhaps we are a nation motivated by adversity, tragedy and challenges; and we rally our best when the odds are against us. So, it was at the dawn of democracy, the odds were stacked against us, as a recalcitrant Inkatha refused to be part of the transition process.

Hon. Hlengwa much has been said about the Prince of Phindangene, the Prime Minister to the Zulu monarch, and erstwhile Acting President of the Republic of South Africa since his demise. It was in no small measure due to his tenacity that a paradigm of exceptionalism became the default as the Zulu nation benefited from the transition to democracy the way no other has to date.

Out of that volatile moment was born a compromise that protected traditional lands and saw the formation of the Ingonyama Trust as it assisted in securing the participation of the then-monarch, HM King Zwelithini kaBhekuzulu and Inkatha — now the Inkatha Freedom Party (IFP) — in the landmark 1994 elections.

I recollect this part of our transition to democracy not to eulogise but to make the argument that the same cultural recognition should be accorded and extended to the full diversity of South African traditional leadership such as Sekhukhune and Mampuru of BaPedi and Queen Modjadji of Balobude.

To transform culture and its political economy we must start with recognition of the fullness of our diversity. We must stop perpetuating myths as if the Zulu nation is the only nation in South Africa.

We must stop perpetuating myths that the Eastern Cape is the land of the Xhosas whereas there is a rich traditional and cultural history of AmaMpondo, AmaMpondomise and AbaThembu reflected in our linguistic diversity, arts, crafts, rituals, dress and well documented history.

We have many films about the life of Shaka Zulu that perpetuate this myth. Where is the narrative or film of the defeat of the Portuguese hero of conquests Francois de Almeida at the Battle of Salt River. This was a big deal, a momentous event though it is not yet fully claimed, owned and celebrated because we have not accorded the Khoi and San people along with all other traditional leaders their due recognition, rights and restitution as we have done for the Zulu nation.

We only truly start valuing our diversity by creating an inclusive environment where differences are respected and the history, unique perspectives and customs of all are recognised.

We must recognise The “Rainbow Nation” and its significance as a character of our national identity by the full inclusion of its diverse expression and celebration of all the strands that weave the beautiful tapestry of what makes us South African.

We must fully recongnise the role of culture in conquering and addressing challenges such as social ills, bullying, and Gender-Based Violence Femicide (GBVF). We must draw on our rich history in these difficult times and our collective will to overcome adversity.

We have not done justice to the economic impact of culture and heritage and will not do so as long as we cling to a paradigm of restitution that starts with the SA Native Land Act of 1913 whilst ignoring the Wars of Dispossession bravely waged by our heroes since the inception of the colonial project.

This Heritage Day we must invoke the memory of all our brave heroes. We must celebrate and claim the legacies of the Goringhaikona leader Autshumato and his niece Krotoa who were imprisoned on Robben Island in 1658 by Jan Van Riebeeck.

We must recollect and claim the history of the 1686 Dutch Ship Stavenisse shipwrecked at Port St. John’s and the survivors who first encountered AmaMpondo nation and then the AbaThembu in the Eastern Cape.

We must claim and celebrate the legacy of 1855 AmaXhosa Chief Siyolo grandson of Ndlambe who was imprisoned on Robben Island after the Battle of Mlangeni. We must claim the legacy of 1858 when AmaNgqika Chief Maqoma and his wife Katyi were also imprisoned on the Island along with Maqoma”s half brother Xhoxho; Phato of the Gqunukwebe line, and his son Dilima; Stokwe, Mapasa and Fadana of AbaThembu who were all also imprisoned there after the Cattle Killings of 1856-1857 which were part of the Wars of Dispossession with the British.

We must claim the legacy of the 1869-1870 captives from the first Korana War who were sent to Robben Island including Piet Booy, David Diedericks, Jan Kivido and Carel Ruyter. We must claim the legacy of the second Korana War of 1880 that saw the imprisonment of leaders Thomas Pofadder, Jan Malgas, Jacobus Afrikaner, John Adam’s and Klaas Pofadder.

We must claim the legacy of 1874 of AmaHlubi Chief Langalibalele who was imprisoned for treason and later taken to the farm Uitvlugt in what is today Pinelands.

We must keep the stories of these brave leaders alive as it is our story. We must ensure that all monarchs in South Africa are equally honoured and the Ngonyama Trust model must be applied to all kingdoms so that all our traditional monarchs and communities are likewise beneficiaries of restorative justice and restitution.

As we once again rally the nation behind Amabhokobhoko this weekend in the Rugby World Cup 2023 against Ireland, let us be spurred on by the slogan together we can. Let us once again ignite our skies with the memories of the victories at Rugby World Cup 1995 under the iconic leadership of Francois Pienaar; the brave victory of 2007 under John Smit; and that triumphal moment in 2019 when Captain Courageous Siya Kolisi lifted the Webb Ellis Trophy for the third time. We stand on the brink of history as we march towards victory once again in France. We wish our boys well and send them our message of support; a nation united in its diversity can and will overcome all adversity.

Together we can!

Together we will!

God bless South Africa and grant us victory!

Nkosi sikelela iAfrica!

I thank you!

Nkosi Zwelivelile
Royal House of Mandela
Mvezo Komkhulu
P.O. Box 126
Viedgesville 5102
Eastern Cape Province
South Africa