For almost 30 years, we have celebrated the cultural diversity of our beloved country as one of our greatest strengths.
According to Nelson Mandela “When our first democratically-elected government decided to make Heritage Day one of our national days, we did so because we knew that our rich and varied cultural heritage has a profound power to help build our new nation. In the vein of celebrating shared culture, rather than focusing on cultural divisions.”
And since then, it has been a tradition that in this Assembly, and in legislatures across the nine provinces, politicians from all represented parties participate in debates like the one we are having today.
I expect, in legislatures across the country, politicians, representing all the political parties that make up our multi-party democracy, will make compelling speeches about the diversity of our country and the unique cultures.
We will hear speeches urging South Africans to celebrate and unite in that diversity.
But, some of those same political leaders and their parties will enter the looming election period, as they have the ones before, seeking to exploit our differences rather than celebrate our similarities.
Devoid of compelling arguments to persuade voters to support them they will resort to creating divisions based on race and ethnicity.
They will seek to invoke fear – some will resort to the old apartheid tactic of “swartgevaar” - to create a larger group of minority voters from whom they will build their political base.
As the national assembly, elected to represent the people, we cannot kumbaya through this debate, calling for a united South Africa built on the strength of our diversity, without holding the hypocrites who constantly seek to divide us to account.
Our progress as a nation – to overcome our undeniable crises and challenges – cannot be achieved through division based on race.
That experiment was forced upon us and thankfully failed.
The only differences we should exploit for votes are our differences in ideas.
We participate in politics and contest elections against each other because we believe we have better solutions for the legacy we have inherited and the problems the people of our country face on a daily basis.
South Africans of all races and cultures have far more in common than anything that divides us.
Let us remember Madiba’s message on our diversity:
“It is not our diversity which divides us, it is not our ethnicity, or religion or culture that divides us. Since we have achieved our freedom, there can only be one division amongst us: between those who cherish democracy and those who do not!”
On this Heritage Day, we call on South Africans not to follow those who encourage us to fear the so-called “others”.
They will not build a united prosperous South Africa.
I thank you, Speaker.