Cape Town – Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa has urged South Africans to use the month of September, which is known as Heritage Month, to visit places like museums and other monuments to learn about the country’s rich history and heritage.
The Deputy President said this shortly after visiting the Slave Lodge Museum in Cape Town on Tuesday.
“…I would like to encourage as many South Africans as possible that during this month, they visit museums, they visit places of remembrance and to connect with our past so that we can better understand the present moment that we are living in so that we can also chart a way to the future. A future that dictates that we must have social cohesion, we must build a South African nation and we must regard all the relics that we can see of the past symbols of what should make a South African nation that is united and determined to move forward,” he said.
The Deputy President said understanding the country’s heritage – from the days of slavery till to date – helps all South Africans understand a journey that South Africans have travelled – that of pain and courage to achieving freedom today.
Heritage is about restoration of dignity, citizenship and nationhood.
It helps people to recognise the injustices of the past and inhumanity of the past and the country’s shared determination to reject all forms of racism, discrimination and sexism.
Some of the messages imprinted on the walls of the Slave Lodge stated that slavery still persists in different forms in modern day society, including human trafficking.
“So for me it has been really moving just to be here at the slave lodge just to see how slaves were treated but also to see the courage that many of them had to attain the freedom. Freedom is something that springs eternally in the human heart and soul and one can see that the people who were enslaved here yearned for freedom. Today we enjoy freedom … that was hard fought by people, some of whom lived and died here, that through their blood and suffering, they were able to water our tree of freedom,” he Deputy President said.
When he arrived at the Museum, the Deputy President was taken on a tour of the Slave Lodge, which was built in 1679 as the slave lodge of the Dutch East India Company.
It is believed that up to 9 000 slaves from different parts of the world, convicts and the mentally ill lived in the building between 1679 and 1811.
He was also told about the 1794 Wreck of San Jose, discovered off the coast of Cape Town, which gives an insight of the transatlantic slave trade in that era.
The Deputy President said it was important to remember where we come from as a nation and to also reconnect with the various cultures that have origins from South Africa.
He said a visit to the Museum helped him understand how interconnected people are as South Africans because this is where you learn more about people’s diversity.
“We often talk about diversity but this is where you really realise the wealth of our diversity as people that our roots and origins are so diverse, they are rooted in slavery, in the cultures of different people, in the music and also in the suffering that one sees here how our people who were brought here, many of them under compulsion, were able to form a life that has formed a nation of all of us as South Africans.
“So coming here is to say thank you for having lived a life that yearned for freedom. Coming here also means that we are affirming our humanity and identity as South Africans diverse in various languages that we speak, diverse in the various cultures, diverse in the various clans, various races and diverse in the various origins because we come from all over. People came as slaves from Mozambique, they came as slaves from the Eastern Asian countries and they came here and they formed a life, and today we are all South Africans.
“So it affirms what the Freedom Charter says that South Africa belongs to all of us who live in it. It is when you come here that you really see that we are so diverse and we are lucky to be living in South Africa.”