Thursday, 24 September 2020

Pretoria: The scourge of gender-based violence (GBV) is tainting the country’s rich heritage, said President Cyril Ramaphosa, once again denouncing what he has described as South Africa’s second pandemic.

“It is important that generations that come after us must fully grasp the importance of the freedom we have all achieved,” President Ramaphosa said in his Heritage Day speech on Thursday.

He told the nation that men, women and children of tomorrow must be proud to have inherited a democracy that affirms the worth and dignity of all citizens.

“So long as this country’s women and children live in fear from violence, we cannot regard ourselves as totally free.

“So long as women are being harassed, abused, beaten, raped and murdered, we cannot say we are a civilised society,” he stressed.

The President condemned GBV that has engulfed the country as reports of women and children dying in the hands of men continue to hog headlines.

“Abusing women is not our tradition, nor is it our custom. It is not, and will never be our heritage,” he lamented.

Meanwhile, he said, throughout the history of Africa, women have built and shaped societies, ruled kingdoms and highly respected and valued.

“We must put an end to this terrible shame that is tainting the image of our country,” he added.

“When you oppress a woman, you oppress a nation. When you beat a woman, you beat a nation.”

He has called on citizens to do away with practices that discriminate against women even through forms of representation in the media, advertising and in popular culture.

“The apartheid government denigrated our cultures and tried to make us ashamed of our cultures, our traditions, our languages and our very appearances,” he said.

“It is disheartening to see that in democratic South Africa, there are still crude stereotypes of black women being put on public display.”

He has encouraged South Africans to continuously check their acts of racism and prejudice.

Renaming of towns

Meanwhile, he said monuments glorifying the divisive past should be repositioned and relocated.

“This has generated controversy; with some saying, we are trying to erase our history.”

However, he believes that building a non-racial society means being sensitive to the lived experiences of all people.

“We make no apologies for this because our objective is to build a united nation.”

“Any symbol, monument or activity that glorifies racism, that represents our ugly past, has no place in democratic South Africa.”

He told the nation that the struggle against apartheid was first and foremost aimed at ensuring that all people should reclaim their dignity, black and white.

“Restoring their dignity is the preoccupation of this administration.”

He said government was determined to continue to strive to eradicate poverty, inequality and underdevelopment.

“We will continue to uphold the rights of all our people to practice their cultures, to speak their languages and practice their traditions.”

Also, government will continue to support every effort to preserve the country’s common heritage, as well as those of individual communities.

“As much as we celebrate our customs and traditions on this day, let us also appreciate that in practising our cultures freely and openly, and in speaking our native languages, we are reclaiming not just our heritage, but our pride and our dignity as South Africans.”

Paying tribute

The President has paid tribute to the “spirited defenders” of the country’s heritage who lost their lives this year.

“Yet as there are those who have passed from this life, we have our Living Human Treasures, our repositories of knowledge, customs and traditions.”

This Heritage Month is dedicated to Dr Esther Mahlangu, Mama Madosini Latozi Mpahleni and Mama Ouma Katrina Esau.

Dr Mahlangu’s paintings inspired by Ndebele design are on display in more than a dozen countries around the world and her work has won numerous awards.

Mama Madosini, the Queen of Pondoland music, is the greatest living musician who can play the indigenous bow instruments.

Mama Katrina Esau is a champion of the culture of the San people and is one of the two last remaining speakers of the Nǁng language.

He said Heritage Day is a time to appreciate the many facets of the nation’s cultures, customs and traditions.

“It is the time when we put them on display to appreciate and celebrate and share our cultures and traditions with others.”

He described South Africa as a nation of the maskandi, Malay choral music and sokkie treffers, but also of amapiano.

Also, a nation that is taking the world by storm with the #JerusalemaChallenge, as young and old in France, the UK, Jamaica, Angola and even in Palestinian East Jerusalem itself are getting in on the craze.