Opening remarks by the Director-General of the GCIS, Ms Phumla Williams, at the Heritage Webinar

29 September 2022

Programme Director,
Fellow government communicators,
Ladies and gentlemen.

A very warm welcome to all of you. 

Thank you for accepting our invitation to join us today as we celebrate our rich cultural heritage and also closing the Heritage Month in South Africa. 

I would like to extend a word of appreciation to my colleagues at the GCIS and BrandSA, who continue to ensure we form part of the continent in our broadened conversations.

A special word of appreciation to Mail & Guardian and AshamTV from Ethiopia who are partnering with us in this webinar.

Ladies and gentlemen,

In 1972, - fifty years ago -, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation adopted the World Heritage Convention. The purpose of this convention was to ensure the world takes an interest in nature conservation and the preservation of cultural sites. 

In 2015, the convention proclaimed 5 May as the African World Heritage Day. This was to get the world to celebrate the Continent’s cultural and natural heritage. Today over 40% of the Heritage sites inscribed in the World Heritage list are from our beautiful Continent.

The significance of this convention was further strengthened through the Aspiration 5 of the African Union Agenda 2063, which calls for an Africa with a strong cultural identity, common heritage, shared values and ethics. 

It makes a clarion call to member states to strive for the African cultural renaissance, which is to tap into Africa’s rich heritage and culture.  It is to boost the creative arts, which are major contributors to Africa’s economic growth and socio-cultural transformation. It calls for the restoration and preservation of Africa’s cultural heritage, including its diverse languages.

As a shared goal for inclusive growth and sustainable development for Africa, Agenda 2063 also propels us to work towards tapping into our rich cultural heritage for the benefit of present and future generations. We also need to harness the cultural richness of our continent by acknowledging its beautiful landscape. We need to set our focus firmly towards achieving the great vision of the Africa we want!  

Since South Africa declared 24 September as Heritage Day in 1995, the month of September has annually been dedicated to activities and conversations which promote the preservation and celebration of our cultural heritage. 

As part of Heritage Month celebrations – which coincides with Tourism Month – South Africans are, among others, encouraged to take ‘Sho’t Left” tours to the different parts of our beautiful country, and visit our historical, cultural, and recreational sites. We should also promote the desire by our citizens to visit other African countries, to boost regional tourism and economic development in the continent.

This year, our Heritage Month activities are being celebrated under the theme: Celebrating the Legacy of Solomon Linda and South Africa’s Indigenous Music.  

The theme pays tribute to the 60th anniversary of the passing of singer and composer Mr. Solomon Popoli Linda. He is best known as the composer of the song, “Mbube”, which later became the popular music success, “The Lion Sleeps Tonight”. It gave its name to the Mbube style of isicathamiya,  a cappella music. 

Just like many other artists, Mr. Linda used music to tell the South African story and in doing so, took our nation to the world. Our artists used music effectively to tell the world about their hardships and living conditions during the apartheid era. However, their bravery came at a cost, as the apartheid government punished those who spoke out against the injustices in the country. 

For instance, those who spoke out against the apartheid regime, such as Mama Miriam Makeba, saw their music being removed from the shelves in South African music stores. They were also deprived of royalties that were due to them. It is against this background that our government in 1994 amended the relevant legislation to protect the creative work of artists to ensure that they make a decent living from music.

Ladies and gentlemen,

The power of music to unite and inspire people is well known. Through music we form bonds with others and venture out beyond our own small social circles. Music will continue to unite and inspire, however, it is up to us to use its galvanizing power to build a better tomorrow. 

Now more than ever, our nation needs open and honest conversations about our challenges and divisions. Our democratic breakthrough in 1994 has moved us forward, but the deep scars from our ugly past still remain. 

Just as Solomon Popoli Linda chose to use his music to create greater social cohesion and unity, we too must find ways within our spheres of influence to make a fundamental change.  A change that strengthens social cohesion in South Africa and in the continent as a whole. A change that should also appreciate the economic benefit of the Artists. 

We cannot afford to stand by and hope that our challenges will disappear or be solved by someone else. We can only move forward as a nation by channeling our collective energies towards a common destiny. 

We need solid partnerships between government, citizens, and civil society to better deal with issues that affect communities on a daily basis. We need creative artists to help us build a democratic, non-racial, non-sexist, united, and prosperous society based on justice, equality, and the rule of law, as envisaged in the Constitution of the Republic of South Africa of 1996. 

We also need to realize the economic potential of the cultural and creative sector as envisaged by Agenda 2063.

In conclusion 

As we close Heritage Month, please allow me to reiterate our desire to work towards a South Africa that is part of the continent’s drive to promote a strong cultural identity, common heritage and shared values. 

I trust we will engage in fruitful collective reflections that build our continent to become stronger and united in pursuit of the bigger vision of the Africa we want!

Lastly, I would like to wish all of you present here today a happy Heritage Month.

I Thank You! 

Issued by Government Communications
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