President Cyril Ramaphosa has called on South Africans to unite and rebuild the country following the devastation of the COVID-19 pandemic on society and the economy.
He was speaking during the Heritage Day celebrations hosted by the Western Cape provincial government.
“As South Africans, let us unite to rebuild this beautiful country. Let us get on with the task of recovery from this pandemic. To do so, let us find one another again and unite, as we have so many times in the past. Our unity in our diversity is the most valuable feature of our common heritage,” the President said.
President Ramaphosa acknowledged that structural challenges still stand in the way of bridging divisions between South Africans.
“One of our greatest tasks as a nation is to heal the divisions of the past. We will never be a truly united nation until we overcome the poverty, inequality, underdevelopment and unemployment that is still so prevalent in our communities. We can only do so if we work together,” he said.
The President said as the nation rebuilds, citizens should reflect on what it means to be a South African especially in the aftermath of the July unrests which left many people dead and businesses in ruin in Gauteng and KwaZulu Natal.
“It has been a challenging year and we have had much to contend with. We have been trying to get on with our lives in the midst of a deadly pandemic. Just as we were doing so, we were confronted with the outbreak of terrible violence in some parts of our country. Property, infrastructure and businesses were destroyed, jobs were lost and many people were injured and many died.
“In the aftermath of the violence, we have had to ask ourselves: Who are we as a people? What is it that defines our national character? What is it that defines our identity? What is it that we stand for?” he questioned.
The President encouraged citizens to embrace their Constitutional rights by practising them responsibly and respecting others.
“We share a common cultural value of respect for others, for the elderly, for women, for children, for people’s property and belongings. But we also have a deep respect for ourselves. We never use culture or tradition as a tool to oppress, to discriminate or to victimise others on any other basis, including their gender, their religion, their sexuality or their sexual orientation,” President Ramaphosa said.
Arts, culture and heritage sector a key pillar
The President acknowledged those contributing towards the preservation of South African heritage.
He said the arts, culture and heritage sector had enduring a difficult time during the country’s COVID-19 induced lockdown.
“The restrictions we’ve introduced to contain the spread of the Coronavirus have severely damaged this sector. Although the adjusted regulations have allowed businesses in the heritage sector to re-open under certain conditions, it has been a struggle for many to keep their doors open, to recoup the losses they have incurred and to reach audiences again,” President Ramaphosa said.
According to the President, government has supported at least 34 000 practitioners through the COVID Relief Fund to mitigate the devastating effect the pandemic has had on their livelihoods.
“We have [also] supported the employment of young South Africans in biodiversity conservation, ecosystems restoration and land use management. These are just some of the measures we have taken and will continue to take, to ensure that our country’s heritage is preserved for generations to come,” he said. – SAnews.gov.za