Source: The Thabo Mbeki Foundation
Title: SA: Mbeki: Address by the former President of South Africa, at the 14th Kgosi Lebone Molotlegi I memorial lecture, Phokeng
Mmemogolo Semane Molotlegi,
Kgosi Leruo Molotlegi and members of the royal family of the Bafokeng,
Last month, September 2010, and as we have done during many years of our liberation, we celebrated our national Heritage Day and Heritage Month.
Today's gathering here at Phokeng affords me the possibility to ask the simple question - when we celebrate Heritage Day and Heritage Month, exactly what are we celebrating?
Eighty years ago, in 1930, the esteemed African American poet, Countee Cullen, wrote a poem which he entitled "Heritage". Its opening stanza says:
What is Africa to me:
Copper sun or scarlet sea,
Jungle star or jungle track,
Strong bronzed men, or regal black
Women from whose loins I sprang
When the birds of Eden sang?...
What is Africa to me?
Countee Cullen asked the question - What is Africa to me? - because the America of his day sought to deny him and his fellow African Americans their identity and therefore their ability to insist on their humanity.
Many years later, reporting on the deadly effect of the assault in that identity, the outstanding African American writer, James Baldwin, made the statement which surely brings intolerable pain to every African soul - Nobody knows my name!
I have listened to the painful words spoken by the inimitable African American singer, Bessie Smith, as she sang the song - Young Woman's Blues - which includes the lyric:
Some people call me a hobo,
some call me a bum
Nobody knows my name, nobody knows what I've done
I'm as good as any woman in your town
I ain't no high yeller,
I'm a deep killer of brown
Once more the statement was made - Nobody knows my name - by her who said in colour conscious America, that she was no high yellow, but a deep colour of brown.
Many years before James Baldwin and Bessie Smith communicated their heart-rending message that nobody even knew their names, the eminent African American intellectual, liberation fighter and Pan Africanist, W.E.B. du Bois, had asked a poignant question, relating to his people and mine - How does it feel to be a problem? He wrote:
"Why did God make me an outcast and a stranger in mine own house? ...
"After the Egyptian and Indian, the Greek and Roman, the Teuton and Mongolian, the Negro is a sort of seventh son, born with a veil, and gifted with second-sight in this American world - a world which yields him no true self-consciousness, but only lets him see himself through the revelation of the other world. It is a peculiar sensation, this double-consciousness, this sense of always looking at one's self through the eyes of others, of measuring one's soul by the tape of a world that looks on in amused contempt and pity."
In 1970 the outstanding African American liberation fighter, Angela Davis, was on trial in the American courts, facing the possibility of a death sentence.
In that year James Baldwin wrote - An Open Letter to My Sister, Angela Y. Davis - to convey his solidarity, and said:
"The American triumph - in which the American tragedy has always been implicit - was to make Black people despise themselves. When I was little I despised myself; I did not know any better...Black people were killing each other every Saturday night out on Lenox Avenue (in Harlem), when I was growing up; and no one explained to them, or to me, that it was intended that they should; that they were penned where they were, like animals, in order that they should consider themselves no better than animals. Everything supported this sense of reality, nothing denied it: and so one was ready, when it came time to go to work, to be treated as a slave. So one was ready, when human terrors came, to bow before a white God and beg Jesus for salvation - this same white God who was unable to raise a finger to do so little as to help you pay your rent, unable to be awakened in time to help you save your child!...
"The enormous revolution in black consciousness which has occurred in your generation, my dear sister, means the beginning or the end of America. Some of us, white and Black, know how great a price has already been paid to bring into existence a new consciousness, a new people, an unprecedented nation. If we know, and do nothing, we are worse than the murderers hired in our name.
"If we know, then we must fight for your life as though it were our own - which it is - and render impassable with our bodies the corridor to the gas chamber. For, if they take you in the morning, they will be coming for us that night."
Thus, in the end, the Africans in the Diaspora had, through struggle, brought about a new reality of "a new consciousness, a new people, an unprecedented nation".
The young in our country have grown up during a new age in which the old work-spans can no longer be seen toiling hard to construct the roads and other economic infrastructure, that gave the possibility for our country to stake its claim to being modern and civilised.
Powerful machines have displaced the serried ranks of muscular black arms whose rhythmic ascent and descent fractured the earth we walk, and whose powerful swings, backwards and forward, made mighty mounds of the soil we call our land.
Thus did the machines thereby banish for ever the curse of the regime of hard labour, which compelled those to be migrant workers to bow to the dictates of a merciless master.
The monotonous rhyme of the diesel engine which drives the mechanical monsters has silenced the human voice which ensured that the picks, as they rose and fell, and the spades, as they swung to and fro, described a harmonic movement, black skins at one end and burnished steel at the other.
The voice that has died is the lament at the dust-laden worksite of the working men which posed a challenge which had to be addressed.
Lead crier and the chorus chanted in counter-point to give rhythm to the tools of hard labour:
Here they stood in their serried ranks, with picks and shovels in their hands, bare-chested black men who had lost their country to colonisers who had imposed wars on a people armed with the indigenous spear and shield and native courage, who, because the spear and the shield could not vanquish the modern firearms from afar, had lost their land and their freedom.
They proclaimed their wrath that the damned conquerors who had stolen their country, their land and their freedom sought also to add grave insult to grave injury by robbing them of their identity as human beings and as Africans, giving them names which had no meaning and purpose except to summon them to hard labour.
Both conqueror and conquered knew that the matter of the unfinished war between them would not end until the vanquished had succumbed during the second phase, the war of the mind rather than that of the clash of arms, and thus turned their backs on their identity and accepted to live forever as creatures with no history, no culture, and no identity except as imposed on them by the conqueror.
As they chanted - abelungu ngoodamn, basibiza ooJim - our people made the affirmation that they refused to surrender to the sustained assault of the military victor during the second phase of the unfinished war, and therefore that they would forever insist on their own names, with their unique meanings, Nthabiseng, Thanduxolo, Pandelani, Ntsikayezwe, never and never Jim.
Thus did they make the statement that, even as they knew that they had lost their country, their land and their freedom, they refused that they should lose their identity as Africans.
Well beyond the hearing of the baas and the madam, and as part of the national refusal to accept domination, the children too recited the disrespectful nursery rhyme of the black urban streets:
Kwasal' inyama yodwa!
The supervisors who presided over the black working men as they sounded their battle cry - abelungu ngoodamn..., heard and understood what was said and conveyed their alarm to those who were superior even to them.
Refusing to give up their offensive to transform the vanquished into the submissive animals they sought to mould in their own interest, the conquerors made one last and desperate attempt to impose on us an identity they hoped we would accept, and which would serve their interests, by separating us into malleable fragments of different ethnic groups, each awarded a false identity in a Bantustan, seductively described as a homeland.
The cunning experiment failed because the conqueror would not abandon the practice of labelling each one of us Jim and Jane, regardless of the new Bantustan identity he wanted us to assume.
I am happy that today I have the possibility once again to pay tribute to the late Kgosi Edward Patrick Lebone Molotlegi for what he did to oppose the divisive manoeuvres of the conqueror, to assert our unity as Africans and a people, to repudiate the balkanisation of our country to perpetuate our oppression, who thus contributed to the victory of 1994, which made it possible for all of us proudly to say that South Africa is now a united and democratic country.
Thus have I arrived at the moment today when I revel in my authentic names - Nthabiseng, Thanduxolo, Pandelani, Ntsikayezwe, son of Thlothlalemajwe - with no fear that another will challenge my identity, hoping that I too would repudiate that identity, agreeing that all I am is simply - Jim!
To illustrate what I am trying to say, I would like to quote an evocative text in the Holy Bible which you know, and which relates an incident in the ancient past which raised sharply the issue of national identity and the role of heritage in the making of that identity.
I refer her to Psalm 137, which says:
"By the rivers of Babylon, there we sat down, yea, we wept, when we remembered Zion.
We hanged our harps upon the willows in the midst thereof.
For there they that carried us away captive required of us a song; and they that wasted us required of us mirth, saying, Sing us one of the songs of Zion.
How shall we sing the LORD'S song in a strange land?
If I forget thee, O Jerusalem, let my right hand forget her cunning.
If I do not remember thee, let my tongue cleave to the roof of my mouth; if I prefer not Jerusalem above my chief joy.
Remember, O LORD, the children of Edom in the day of Jerusalem; who said, Rase it, rase it, even to the foundation thereof."
This speaks of a captive people who had been forcibly transported from their ancestral and spiritual home, Jerusalem and Zion, dumped in hostile Babylon, and required to repudiate their identity.
The response of the captives, who refused to carry out the commands of their captors, conveys to us the important message that memory, heritage and identity assume their real meaning when they belong to the collective, as unique features of a community, signifying a social memory, a social heritage and a social identity which even a captive people must fight to defend and sustain.
The question I would like to pose is - when we celebrate the public holiday, Heritage Day, and September as our Heritage Month, exactly what are we celebrating?
Very often we have used Heritage Day to organise events where we would perform traditional dances and display our varied traditional forms of dress, convinced that thereby we are responding to what we sought to achieve when we proclaimed September 24 as a public Heritage Day holiday.
Others among us use this normally pleasant Spring day, before the summer heat and the thunders and the lightening and the rains drive us indoors, to entertain ourselves in picnics during which we would favour ourselves by holding braai's, to serve palates that crave for meat roasted over an open fire.
In this context I would make bold to say that during the sixteen years of our liberation, emerging as we did out of a deeply divided and fractious past, we have not, as yet, formed a common sense of identity which would inform the social and national cohesion which our country needs.
We have therefore not fully utilised the opportunity afforded by our National Heritage Days and Months to discover the heritage which would bring us together to form a new nation bound together by healing and bridging the divisions of a cruel past.
As South Africans we live together in one country, governed by one government we combine to elect, represented by National Members of Parliament who are delegated by all of us, subject to laws overseen by a common magistracy and judiciary, protected by united national security services, saluting the same flag and singing the same national anthem.
All this makes the statement that we are one people, one nation, sharing a common patriotism, inspired by a shared identity and driven by the realisation that we share a common destiny, and therefore owe one another the obligation to act together informed by the principle and practice of human solidarity.
And yet the reality that stares all of us in the face everyday is that much of what constitutes present day South Africa is still defined by the long history of conflict which constructed divisive barriers separating us one from another, rather than bridges linking us together across the divides of race, colour, ethnicity, gender, belief, age, geographic dispersal and others.
Recognising and seeking to change this reality, our Constitution states that:
"We, the people of South Africa, recognise the injustices of our past, believe that South Africa belongs to all who live in it, united in our diversity...(and that we are committed to) build a united and democratic South Africa...(that upholds, among others, the value of) non-racialism and non-sexism."
Informed by this perspective, we must ask ourselves the questions and answer them honestly - does South Africa truly belong to all who live in it? Are we truly united on our diversity? Are we a non-racial and non-sexist democracy?
The other particular and related questions I would like to pose today are - are we aware of and act in a manner consistent with a common and shared identity, informed by a heritage which we recognise as a common and shared heritage which unites rather than divides us?
I ask these questions because I am convinced that it is not possible for us to act together in unity to create the social reality of true unity in diversity and a non-racial and non-sexist society, if we do not share the binding or uniting sense of national identity which is itself a non-material or spiritual construct based on a commonly-owned heritage, and therefore the social memory which serves as the conveyor belt of that heritage.
I know of no nation which acts as such a united and cohesive entity if it does not share a sense of common identity, a sense of itself as one nation.
I am certain that, for instance, many of us present here have experienced the sense of national cohesion shared by the citizens of the United States, who easily and honestly find it possible to say in their various ways that they are - proudly American!
This makes it possible for the American public to act together as one nation to defend the United States whenever they are convinced that something or somebody poses a threat to what they value as the American way of life or a threat to the so-called American dream.
I would not hesitate to say that regardless of the divisions that continue to characterise US society, nevertheless the collective memory of the American people has communicated to them a powerful message of a shared and unifying heritage, which has succeeded to give the American nation a binding national identity.
Yet I know this too, that until America creates the physical circumstance such that nobody is obliged to ask the painful question - How does it feel to be a problem! - or state that - Nobody knows my name! - so long will the process of the complete unification of the American nation not be complete.
I know also that you would find a similar sense of national identity, pride and self-worth among the Nigerians, who, even as they are venomously critical of their admitted country's failings, remain - Proudly Nigerian!
To the contrary, during the recent past, which makes the point about the absence of the uniting sense of national identity of which we have spoken, we have seen the disintegration of such important states as the Soviet Union, Yugoslavia and Somalia.
These experiences have informed us of the reality that despite what had seemed to be, underneath the appearance of unity lurked explosive impulses which contained powerful tendencies towards the separation of peoples we had assumed had defined themselves as fellow nationals, within set national borders, rather than distinct human species with mutually exclusive national identities.
The Khoi people, among the very first in the formation of the human species, share the belief, which is profound in its meaning, that the dream of an individual is not truly a dream until or unless it is dreamt by the whole community. This is because they believe that true dreams are a sacred message from the Gods.
Thus do dreams become part of the a shared heritage, and therefore a material force in galvanising and uniting the community to act together to realise what was promised by the dream, which then becomes both a prediction and a call to action - in other words, a self-fulfilling prophecy.
Therefore, in the context of what I am trying to say, I would dare say that as a people, during our years of freedom, we have not, as yet, shared a common dream, as our Khoi ancestors understood and understand what it means to dream.
Surely this means that we do not, as yet, share a common and uniting memory and therefore acceptance of a common and uniting heritage. Tragically this means that we have not as yet arrived at the point when we can say that as the South African nation, we share a common and uniting identity as a people.
Therefore I return to the question - what is the heritage we celebrate when we mark our National Heritage Day and our Heritage Month?
Following on what I have said, I would like to suggest that perhaps we have used our days of Spring, the September month, subconsciously to avoid the difficult challenge to draw on the national memory to identify the common and uniting heritage we need, to help us form our common identity.
Precisely because of our tormented history, it is indeed very difficult to find this common and uniting memory and therefore the common and uniting heritage, and consequently achieve the objective of developing a shared and uniting national identity.
That tormented history has given us different heroes and heroines, different historical memories to celebrate, different shrines we would respect as repositories of our soul, different customs we believe constitute the essence of our being, all of which demonstrates the challenge to which we must respond, to find the common dream which is dreamt by the whole nation.
However, and because of this, the question must be posed - does all this mean that as a nation and a people we are destined never to discover the common and uniting memory and therefore the uniting heritage, which would enable us to develop a shared identity?
My own answer to this question is a resounding No!
I am convinced that it is both possible and necessary to answer the question - what do we mean when we say we are South African, beyond the fact that we carry a common South African Identity Document?
Over the years I have heard many claims made that, for instance:
• South Africa is the rape capital of the world!
• South Africa has one of the highest rates of the abuse of women and children!
• South Africa is the crime capital of the world!
• South Africa is the murder capital of the world!
• South Africa has one of the highest unemployment rates in the world!
• South Africa has one of the highest levels of income and wealth inequality in the world!
• South Africa has the largest number of people infected by HIV and living with AIDS!
• Contrary to the promise it made at its liberation, South Africa has only recorded rising levels of poverty for the majority of the population!
I doubt that any of this would make us - Proudly South African!
All of us know this, that our country faces many challenges, including those of gross inequality in the distribution of wealth, endemic poverty, race and gender inequality, violent crime and a serious burden of the diseases of poverty.
I am also convinced that I, among others, have failed to communicate to our people and the world the truth that cannot be avoided, that it will take a considerable period of time, and sustained effort, to eradicate the centuries-long legacy of colonialism and apartheid, which continues to play a decisive role in defining the challenges I have just mentioned.
But this I know also, that we have made important progress in our continuing national struggle to address these challenges.
Unhappy as I am that we have not as yet eradicated the legacy to which I have referred, which means that millions of our people remain mired in poverty and intolerable suffering, I am nevertheless proud of the effort that has been and is being made to confront this legacy, and of the progress we have achieved, which constitutes part of what makes it possible for me genuinely to say - I am Proudly South African!
However, that sense of pride in my identity as a South African cannot be defined merely by the material improvements to the lives of our people we have made, including the sterling contributions made by the Bafokeng of Phokeng who have served as pathfinders in terms of the use of our resources to benefit the many, and restore to them their sense of human dignity.
Surely there is something else, apart from what might constitute the achievement of a small distance, the creation of a small space, away from the poverty which millions inherited, which would entitle us loudly to proclaim that we are - Proudly South African!
In his poem, An African Elegy, the outstanding Nigerian novelist, poet and thinker, Ben Okri, said:
We are the miracles that God made
To taste the bitter fruits of Time.
We are precious.
And one day our suffering
Will turn into the wonders of the earth.
We, miraculous creations, precious, suffering, Africans, have indeed tasted and continue to taste the bitter fruits of Time. And yet we must bestow on ourselves the gift of hope that what and who we shall be in future, will cause all humanity to marvel at the wonder of our renaissance.
However that wonder will not be, until and unless we achieve the condition blessed by our Khoi ancestors, of dreaming a dream that is dreamt by all.
To get there, we must set ourselves the task to rediscover our common and uniting memory, which will convey to us our common and uniting heritage, which will serve as the fount and foundation of our identity.
You may ask, what then are that memory and heritage we must discover to enable us to define for ourselves our identity as - Proudly South African!
I believe that we must embed this firmly in our minds that we are Africans and therefore that we must repossess the universal memory that we are in fact the cradle of humanity, the ancestral home of all human beings, and fully understand the import of this reality.
I also believe that we must repossess the memory and heritage represented by the ancient African civilisations such as those of Nubia, Egypt, Aksum, Mali, Ghana, Songhay, Zimbabwe and Mapungubwe, which make a vitally important statement about our African contribution to our own and to human civilisation.
So too should we reclaim the memory and heritage which tell of how the Africans of North Africa, including those led by Hannibal, sustained our independence against the then mightiest of the empires human society had ever seen, the Roman empire, until the historic African city of Carthage was destroyed.
We must, as well, re-own the historic victories we won in Haiti in the African Diaspora in 1804, at Isandlhwana in South Africa in 1879, in Khartoum in Sudan in 1885, at Adwa in Ethiopia 1896, during the sustained resistance of the Ashanti of Ghana, and the heroic feats of the Afrikaner people as they fought British imperialism during the South African or Anglo-Boer War, all of which evoke the memory of other heroic African military leaders such as Hannibal, and therefore constitute an important part of our memory and heritage.
So too should we take ownership, as part of our heritage, of the immense contribution made by African labour here at home, elsewhere on our Continent and in the African Diaspora - they who chanted abelungu ngoodamn, basibiza ooJim - on whose backs was built what became the modern world in Africa, Europe and the Americas, and continue to this day to add to the wealth of nations.
Similarly we should highlight this as part of our heritage, that through struggle we helped to end the era of imperialism and colonialism, which had dehumanised billons of people in the countries of the South and elsewhere in the North, such as Ireland.
Similarly we must take ownership of the heroic struggles for liberty waged by our brothers and sisters in the African Diaspora, including the sustained struggles of the African Americans which have bequeathed to us heroes and heroines such as Ned Turner, Sojourner Truth, Frederick Douglass, W.E.B. du Bois, Martin Luther King Jr and Malcolm X, as well as the struggles of the people of Haiti which have enriched us by giving us the gift of such titans as Toussaint L'Ouverture, Jean-Jacques Dessalines, Alexander Pétion, and Jean-Bertrand Aristide.
Neither should we underestimate the importance of the heritage of Africa's historic contribution in the fields of knowledge in all disciplines, as well as the creative arts, taking into account the fact of ancient scholarship in Alexandria and the later universities of Timbuktu; the African sculptures, such as the Benin Bronzes from Nigeria, which helped to inform the creative imagination of such modern artists as Picasso; the music which has inspired jazz and other musical streams; and the writers who have won Nobel Prizes for Literature, as well as others, as great, who have not, such as Chinua Achebe, Ousmane Sembene, Ngugi wa Thiong'o, Mazisi Kunene, Ingrid Jonker, Olive Schreiner, N.P. van Wyk Louw, Ayi Kwei Armah and Ben Okri.
Thus when anybody asks us the questions, who and what are you as Africans, we should take pride in answering confidently that:
as the cradle of humanity, we are the ancestors of all who are human, regardless of colour and race; we are the offspring of the ancient civilisations of Egypt and Mapungubwe; we are part of the warrior tradition which registered historic victories at the gates of Rome, at Port-au-Prince and Isandlhwana; we are of those whose labour ensured the prosperity of many cities in Europe and the Americas; for millennia we have contributed to the world new knowledge and the spiritual fulfilment provided by the arts; and, through our sacrifices, we brought to an end a whole era in human development which imposed on the peoples of the world the terrible burdens of slavery, imperialism and colonialism.
I believe that when we mark National Heritage Day and Heritage Month, these are some of the African achievements we must celebrate, which constitute part of the memory which gives us our identity as an important part of the human family.
So too should we educate ourselves and consciously integrate in our consciousness everything that constitutes our common and unifying identity in terms of what has been done in our country since our liberation in 1994.
I refer here specifically to our national symbols, including our National Orders.
You will bear with me as I now take you through a short course on the matter of our national symbols, which constitute an important part of the heritage which gives us our identity, and identify for us the role models among our people and the peoples of the world we should celebrate and emulate.
Both our flag and our national anthem represent bold and creative contributions to our continuing task further to strengthen our national reconciliation.
How often do we celebrate this reality?
When we undertook the challenging task to adopt other national symbols, consistent with our transformation into a non-racial democracy, we strived to achieve the related objectives of developing a common and unifying identity and celebrating our African heritage.
The discipline of heraldry dictates that any national Coat of Arms should include a symbol which represents the defence or protection of the nation. In our case, consistent with our identity as Africans, we chose the Secretary Bird with its stretched wings, the best hunter of the serpents of the wild, to symbolise the protection of the nation.
How often do we celebrate this national protector, the Secretary Bird?
Our National Motto, !ke e: /xarra/ //ke - which means - diverse people come together, - both pays tribute to the /Xam people among the Khoi, whose language is now extinct, and again affirms our African identity.
Therefore I ask, when ever, as we celebrate Heritage Day, do we pay tribute to the Khoi and the San?
To symbolise and celebrate excellence among our people in terms of our National Orders we chose the powerful image of Mapungubwe. To symbolise and celebrate beauty we chose the truly beautiful and indigenous national flower, the strelitzia, known in isiXhosa as Ikhamanga. To symbolise and celebrate selfless service to our people we chose the mighty tree, the Baobab.
Again I ask the question - when we celebrate Heritage Day and Heritage Month, how often do we talk about the symbols which help to define our unifying identity, Mapungubwe, Ikhamanga and the Baobab, and speak in praise of the outstanding South African men and women who are members of our National Orders, and therefore our uniting and defining role models?
How often do we salute the self-explanatory National Orders of Luthuli and the Companions of O.R. Tambo?
And so you can see that as the new South Africa sought to determine its own identifying national symbols, from the National Flag and the National Anthem, through the Coat of Arms, to the National Orders, it reached deep into our heritage as part of the process of helping to form our national identity.
I would also like to suggest that to answer the questions - who and what are we - there is much else our country did as part of our process of liberation which constitutes an essential element of the heritage we must take on board as we continue to engage the effort to define our identity.
I refer here also to such post-1994 heritage as the successful management of the transition from apartheid and white minority rule to a non-racial democracy; the construction of a new state system on the basis of the 1996 Constitution which, among other things, creates the possibility for the resolution of all conflict through peaceful means; the resolution of an historic conflict which demanded justice through the Truth and Reconciliation Commission; the cultivation of peaceful communal relations in a diverse society through such measures as the adoption of 11 official languages; addressing the socio-economic upliftment of the poor by instituting processes which would use the resources generated by the developed part of our political economy to address the needs of the underdeveloped segment of our society; and the building of new relations of friendship between our country and the rest of our Continent, Africa, based on the principle of human solidarity.
This heritage is celebrated elsewhere in Africa and throughout the world as an outcome of global significance, positioning the new South Africa as an international ‘pilot project' in terms of the successful management of the resolution of conflicts in diverse societies, earning the description that it constitutes ‘a miracle'.
And yet we, the parents of this ‘miracle', seem to be ingloriously oblivious of its meaning and significance, intent to emphasise what has not been done, as though it could have been done, and yet is in the process of becoming!
And thus, once again, I return to the question - when we celebrate Heritage Day and Heritage Month, exactly what do we celebrate?
The failure to implant in the public South African mind the elements in our heritage which would inspire a common and uniting South African pride has led to the situation all of us must address, that we have so far not succeeded to develop or evolve a durable, unifying and inspiring South African identity.
I accept that each one of us as individuals are naturally characterised by an amalgam of various identities which, on occasion, might be in conflict with one another.
However what I seek to urge on all of us and the nation at large is that, without repudiating our other identities, we must make a special effort to evolve a South African identity and accept that this identity must take precedence over all our other identities.
I would like to believe that by now all of us have come to understand the negative impact of our sustained failure to evolve a South African identity, which we would accept would take precedence over all our other identities.
Our failure to achieve these objectives will be inimical to the construction of the new South Africa which belongs to all who live in it, united in their diversity, to which all of us claim to be committed.
This will result in the reality that we will continue to see many South Africans who identify themselves first and foremost in terms of their race and colour, rather than first of all, as part of a new nation; who identify themselves first and foremost in terms of their tribal affiliation; who identify themselves first and foremost in terms of their regional origin; who identify themselves first and foremost in terms of their personal wealth and their capacity for flamboyant conspicuous consumption; who identify themselves first and foremost in terms of their patriarchal superiority over the women of our country; and who identify themselves first and foremost as a segment separate and apart from all other Africans on our Continent and the African Diaspora, rather than first of all, as part of a new nation which is proudly African.
I am certain that all of us are aware of the pernicious consequences which have emanated from attachment to the identities I have mentioned, which deny or repudiate vitally important parts of our shared heritage, making it impossible for us to develop a proud, common and unifying South African identity, and thus achieve the objectives contained in our Constitution.
We must therefore make a deliberate effort to cultivate the common understanding that the commemoration of our heritage, and therefore the national identity which this heritage gives us, is not merely a passing matter which we formally acknowledge by celebrating the annual Public Holiday on September 24 every year.
I began this Lecture by quoting the esteemed African American poet, Countee Cullen, who asked himself the question, 80 years ago - What is Africa to me?
As I come to the close, I dare suggest that we too should pose this same question to ourselves - What is Africa to me? - and indeed - What is South Africa to me?
The mere posing of these questions points to the imperative that we must ensure that our celebration of Heritage Day and Heritage Month, and our heritage throughout the year assume real meaning, positioning themselves as part of our conscious effort to redefine our identity as truly the great people we correctly imagine ourselves to be.
We are fortunate that in this regard we have not only Kgosi Lebone Molotlegi I to serve as our example, but also his father, Kgosi Manotshe Molotlegi, who took on the political and economic powers of his day to assert the rights of the Bafokeng, whose victories have blessed the Bafokeng and our nation with the progress we enjoy in this part of our country today.
I came here ten-and-a-half-years ago, in April 2000, sadly to help lay to rest the mortal remains of the young Kgosi Lebone Molotlegi II.
On that occasion, to salute the departed, and to celebrate the abiding contribution and dedication of the Royal House of the Bafokeng to the upliftment of our people, I quoted a poem which had been found in the pocket of an unknown soldier in El Salvador who had perished as he fought for the freedom of his people.
In that poem the unknown soldier of El Salvador had written:
Ask not my name
Nor if you know me
If the dreams I have had
Will grow without me.
Alive no more
I will go where my dreams have shown me.
Those who carry on the fight
Will plant other roses
All will remember me.
We have gathered here today to honour the memory of the late Kgosi Edward Patrick Lebone Molotlegi. I am certain that where he is, he too would repeat the words of the unknown soldier of El Salvador that those who have followed and will follow him will plant other roses.
Among those roses must surely be the building of the South African identity of which I have spoken, an identity which would in itself communicate the message that we must indeed be proudly South African, given that we are indeed committed to building a humane society based on the fundamental value of ubuntu that motho ke motho ka motho yo mongwe.
As this will not happen on its own, I can think of no better champions to take up this mission than you the Bafokeng, who are to me boMalome, who have for more than a century stood up for what is right, which has sought to affirm the dignity of all Africans.
Kgosi Lebone Molotlegi I has gone where his dream has shown him, confident that all of us will remember him.
To remember him means that we have to strive to walk in his footsteps as one of the architects of the new South Africa which must be founded on an elevating and unifying national identity, and therefore have a strong sense of social and national cohesion, which would be inspired by the values of ubuntu.
Our act of remembrance of our late and esteemed leader and guide must find expression in a labour of love we must perform everyday, of planting other roses, to add to the rose garden he bestowed to us as our heritage.
Thus should the glorious colours and the fragrance of the roses we plant everyday, in honour of Kgosi Edward Patrick Lebone Molotlegi, answer the question which Countee Cullen posed eight decades ago - What is Africa to me? - making it impossible that any African anywhere should say - Nobody knows my name! - or oblige us to chant that abelungu ngoodamn!
The fragrance of the flowers we must plant must help us to dream a dream that is dreamt by our people as a whole; bring to their end the long years during which we hanged our harps upon the willows of Babylon, refusing to celebrate the denial of our common identity; and cause the birth of the moment when our suffering, both black and white, will turn into the wonders of the earth.
Then will it no longer be necessary to ask the simple question - when we celebrate Heritage Day and Heritage Month, exactly what are we celebrating?