Language at heart of SA's heritage

2014-09-24 20:30

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Johannesburg - The power of language as a means of celebrating and strengthening South Africans' shared heritages was reiterated by various groups in honour of Heritage Day on Wednesday.

"We are united in our diversity... In the various languages we speak," said Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa in delivering the keynote address at Heritage Day celebrations held at the James Motlatsi stadium in Orkney.

"Let us learn each other's cultures and history. Let us try to speak each other's languages," he said.

Hundreds of South Africans from all walks of life attended the gathering, showcasing their cultural clothing and traditions.

The African National Congress called on South Africans from all backgrounds to celebrate the country's collective heritage.

"As we celebrate this day let us do so with high regard of the developments that ushered a new democracy which has been the foundation of the new identity we have embraced," spokesperson Zizi Kodwa said in a statement.

He said the nation should recommit itself to cultivating an even deeper sense of nationhood.

Public Protector Thuli Madonsela said the country's greatest heritage was its Constitution.

"South Africans' national heritage transcend[s] artefacts, historical knowledge, traditional clothes, music, language, the environment, and other beautiful legacies from our past," said a statement issued by her office.

"The country's greatest heritage [is]...its Constitution."

Madonsela said that the Constitution served as a "roadmap" for the South Africa people for which people yearned.

Meanwhile, the arts and culture portfolio committee urged for all official languages to be used equitably.

"The committee calls on the department of basic education to move with speed in ensuring that teaching of African languages in schools is implemented," said chairwoman Xoliswa Tom in a statement.

She said sign language should also be part of the policy of ensuring all South Africans could access information in the language of their choice.


Opposition party, the Economic Freedom Fighters called on Nama - the language traditionally used by Khoi and San people - to be included as an official language in South Africa.

"The languages of the native populations remain excluded and marginalised," said party spokesman Mbuyiseni Quintin Ndlozi in a statement.

In Cape Town, South Africans were able to get a glimpse into our truly time-worn heritage when ancient artifacts - among the world's oldest evidence of symbolic behaviour by humans -- went on display at the SA National Gallery.

Items excavated from the Southern Cape's Blombos Cave included a 77 000-year-old piece of ochre, one side of which has been engraved with a geometric pattern, and 15 shell beads, pierced and perforated for use in a necklace 75,000 years ago.

Meanwhile, speaking in Gugulethu, Deputy Minister in the Presidency Buti Manamela offered the youth of the country some classic words of wisdom including that "School is Cool! Don't Do Drugs,"; as well as urging them to always be respectful and not swear.

"In many instances, our right to hold an opinion will diminish as fast as we raise our finger towards other people in a sign of disrespect," said Manamela in a speech prepared for delivery.

The power of the youth was also celebrated during a ceremony declaring Harold Cressy High School as a Western Cape heritage site.

Western Cape education MEC Debbie Schafer heralded the school's namesake as well its first principal, Edgar Maurice "as activists as much as educators".

The Democratic Alliance kept political commentary running at their Heritage Day celebrations at Constitutional Hill in Johannesburg.

Decrying Baleka Mbete as donning "ANC goggles", the DA parliamentary leader Mmusi Maimane also took aim at the EFF by suggesting that "the DA could equally arrive in Parliament, wearing blue-overalls, and bang loudly on our desks. But that would achieve nothing."

Heritage Day is a public holiday in South Africa where people are encouraged to celebrate the many cultures in the country and their heritage.

Read more on:    debbie schafer  |  buti manamela  |  cyril ramaphosa  |  mmusi maimane  |  baleka mbete  |  thuli madonsela  |  heritage day

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