Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa says Heritage Day gives South Africans an opportunity to reflect on their history, their cultural heritage, their rituals and their languages.

“It obliges us to pay attention to the values upon which we seek to build a united and prosperous nation,” he said on Saturday.

Speaking at the national Heritage Day celebrations in Galeshewe, Kimberley in the Northern Cape, Ramaphosa said Heritage Day reminded South Africans that they are all Africans, not just individuals and groups who happened to occupy the same geographical space.

“It must also remind us that from a history of racial division and social exclusion, we need to work tirelessly to forge a common future founded on equality, compassion and social justice.

“Heritage Day must also serve as a reminder that education is not only Africa’s proud heritage, but remains the most potent asset in the hands of our people to restore their dignity. We must cherish the opportunity to learn and we must jealously guard the instruments of learning,” he said.

Ramaphosa warned against burning of books, schools and lecture halls, saying it was an assault on the foundations of society.

“We must condemn attitudes, practices and institutions that perpetuate social exclusion. We will achieve social cohesion when our words, teachings and conduct cease to insult and dehumanise those who do not have the same skin colour or hair texture as us,” he said.

The Deputy President also called on South Africans to pay tribute to South Africa’s Living Human Treasures.

“Living Human Treasures are custodians of indigenous knowledge systems. They are living legends who possess rare insight into our culture, oral history and past lived experiences.

“They are an irreplaceable asset because of their stellar contribution to cultural heritage, social cohesion and nation building. They represent specialist knowledge and information which has been sustained over generations through memory and oral tradition,” he said.

According to the Deputy President, the intangible heritage provides communities with a sense of identity and belonging.

“South Africa’s interest in recognising and safeguarding this living heritage is part of our nation’s aspiration to guarantee the full potential of its diverse, yet shared future,” he said.

He called on communities to assist government in identifying many more deserving individuals who are custodians of indigenous knowledge.

He said the youth must be nurtured in the ancient wisdom that has been passed from generation to generation.

“This knowledge must be at the centre of school and university curricula,” he said.

Also speaking at the celebrations, Arts and Culture Minister Nathi Mthethwa told guests that as South Africans their heritage must be inclusive.

“Ours is to ensure that we live by the values of our constitution. All we have to do is to correct the wrongs of the past,” he said.

Mthethwa also called on South Africans to share ideas on creating harmony and to be true to diversity.

Heritage must be celebrated daily

Many were excited to celebrate Heritage Day. Among those who came to celebrate the day was Jacob Mate, from Galeshewe, who told SAnews, that it was important to celebrate the day as it ensures that all cultures will not be eroded.

“Our youth must know our origins, traditions and cultures,” he said.

Echoing the similar sentiments was Magdeline Seaparo, from Kuruman, who said different cultures and traditions must be part of people’s daily lives.

“We don’t have to only dress up in our traditional attires on Heritage Day, this must be part of our daily life,” she said.

In a bid to ensure that all cultures and traditions do not fade away, government has called on South Africans from all backgrounds to join these national Heritage Day celebrations as part of efforts to restore the dignity, citizenship and identity of all citizens.