Heritage Day Speech by Hon Nompendulo Mkhatshwa 'Celebrating Our Cultural Diversity In A Democratic South Africa'
21 September 2023
Honourable House Chairperson,
Citizens of South Africa,
Honourable Members, the Constitution of South Africa provides a vision of a united, prosperous, non-racial and non-sexist society; a country that belongs to all who live in it, united in its diversity.
The NDP acknowledges that to build a socially cohesive society, South Africa needs to reduce poverty and inequality by broadening opportunity and employment through economic inclusion, education and skills.
It acknowledges that to build a socially cohesive South Africa we must promote mutual respect and inclusiveness; acknowledge all as being equal before the law and deepen the appreciation of citizens’ responsibilities and obligations towards one another.
As such, we must appreciate and acknowledge the heritage landscape and ecosystem as bigger and broader than a department of sports, arts and culture imperative. In essence, the preservation, protection and promotion of our heritage landscape and ecosystem is the responsibility of all departments and their entities, social institutions and citizens of this country.
Our inability to be intentional and coordinated on this important task will lead to the continued neglect and exploitation of our heritage landscape. For example, the exploitation seen with the mass production of our cultural wear in China and by some international brands. I mean from the smallest towns of the Eastern to Main Reef China Mall, straight to Marabastad kukho umbhaco othengiswa ngamaChina owenziwe eChina bekhona oMam’Ngxongo noMaLeta who can make the mbhaco themselves and who should be the ones that we are buying from. This includes boMme in Limpopo who make dihele nexibhelani.
These are challenges the ANC government is cognizant of and has worked towards addressing in harnessing the preservation, protection and promotion of our heritage and culture.
Supporting Arts and Craft Businesses
The creative and cultural industries can contribute substantially to small business development, job creation, and urban development and renewal.
The South African Cultural Observatory shares that the Cultural and Creative Industries contributed 2.97% to the GDP in 2020, employing about 1 million workers.
In that 2.97%, the Design and Creative Services contributed R51 billion, the Audio-visual and Interactive Media R48.4 billion and the Visual Arts and Crafts made up 15% of the cultural and creative industries contribution to the GDP.
Some of the faces that represent the above contributions include:
- Laduma Ngxokolo who owns the Maxhosa Brand which has now become globally recognized.
- Nqobile Nkosi, owner of the Jewellery Village.
- Thandi Sibisi a black woman, owning a gallery.
- And, Nkhensani Rihlampfu, a Joburg based sculptor whose rope sculptures range from R40k to R650k.
This is just but a glimpse of the economic value the creative sector contributes and can further create for our country and its local economies.
Preserving and Promoting the Heritage Tourism Economy
In the financial year 2021/22 the Department of Tourism supported 39 projects across all 9 provinces towards the development of the Heritage Tourism Economy. A key development was the Baviaanskloof Interpretative Centre which is a UNESCO Proclaimed World Heritage Site in the Eastern Cape.
Many of the projects of the department of tourism such as the Review of the Tourism Masterplan for the Cradle of Humankind World Heritage Site were done by consultants and companies that were predominantly owned and/or managed by historically disadvantaged individuals for them to render expert or technical support.
Under the Department of Science and Innovation, the ANC government has also prioritised Astro-Tourism as part of our Heritage Tourism imperatives. Honourable Members, our heritage and indigenous beliefs are well found within the science of astronomy.
For example, last year July, the DSI sponsored the International Indigenous Astronomy Conference which was organized by the Indigenous Knowledge Systems Centre of the North West University (Mafikeng campus).
One of the highlights of the conference was the discovery of indigenous astronomy research initiatives at Inzalo Ye Langa in Mpumalanga which is an Ancestral Heritage Pilgrimage, known as the “Birthplace of the Sun”. It has the oldest known solar calendar in the world. In 2021 the DSI funded a group of students and researchers to visit the site and to observe the celebration of the new year which is normally hosted in September annually.
iNzalo yeLanga in Mpumalanga is one but many Astro-tourism sites in South Africa. Many of us would be aware of those that exist in Carnarvon and Sutherland in the Northern Cape. It is for this reason that the DSI and the Department of Tourism have collaborated to unlock opportunities in Astro-tourism positioning South Africa as a world-class Astro-Tourism destination. A joint steering committee and working group have been established to facilitate the development of an Astro-tourism strategy. The strategy aims to promote:
- indigenous celestial narratives,
- infrastructure development,
- inclusive tourism growth and partnership,
- human capacity development,
- indigenous community development,
- and functional Astro-tourism streams.
The strategy prioritizes holistic astronomy experiences that combine scientific knowledge, cultural heritage, and economic development. It highlights the invaluable contributions of indigenous communities in observing celestial events, cultural interpretations, and how they are embedded in the fabric of our history. This is elegantly depicted through the Global Competitive Advantage of our Indigenous Starlore section, underscoring the connections between astronomy and cultural traditions.
Currently, the DSI and Department of Tourism are engaging various Departments and Business Stakeholders on the strategy for support and to create awareness.
DEFINING SOUTH AFRICAN CULTURE – CULTURE A SHIFTING PHENOMENON
Honourable Members, culture is a social construct, it is not static. It is continuously evolving, reacting and aligning with the people of that time and their socioeconomic and political landscape. And, although culture can be used to cultivate transformation, it is important to recognize that in the last couple of years, we have seen a culture that contradicts our national identity as informed by the values embedded in our constitution.
For example, rape culture and the culture of corruption. These social constructs should not characterize the South African society. They are un-South African!
Dictated by our constitution and its clarity on non-sexism, it is un-South African behaviour to rape, harass or kill women and members of the LGBTQIA community. So, we will not accept GBV as a norm in our communities.
One of the factors undermining the public sector is the culture of corruption. We must be relentless and consistent in our efforts to eliminate corruption, restore a culture of accountability and revive the principles of Batho Pele. The DPSA has done work in this area through the Public Administration Ethics, Integrity, and Disciplinary Technical Assistance Unit (TAU). To this end, we must continue to support and strengthen these processes which seek to detect and punish wrongdoers who undermine our people and the country's developmental agenda.
We will not accept the use of public funds to enrich individuals! We will not accept public servants who do not play their part in the accountability ecosystem.
We thus welcome programmes of the Department of Higher Education such as the Changing ‘Men’talities Programme launched a few weeks ago to address sexist culture in institutions of higher learning and inevitably in our communities.
We also welcome the inclusion of Civic Education to the TVET curriculum.
Culture, belonging and identity are inseparable; thus, a people will only believe in what is said to be South African culture when they feel they belong socially, culturally, economically and even politically. And through this sense of belonging perhaps we could see increased active citizenry, individual accountability and social compacting.
The country’s rich heritage, cultural legacy, diversity and the creativity of its people mean that South Africa can offer unique stories, opportunities, knowledge and products to the world. And it must be us who drive it to the world! Our artistic endeavours and expressions can foster values, facilitate healing and restore national pride.
We must continue to intentionally and inclusively place our collective efforts on harnessing our nations capabilities to preserve, protect and promote our cultural diversity and heritage
As the grand-daughter of oNyambose, oNdwandwe, nabo baseLangeni; we wish all South Africans a great heritage month as we reflect on impvelaphi yethu, na apho siyakhona.