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Johannesburg - Heritage Day was of utmost importance because it defines the people of the country, said Deputy President Kgalema Motlanthe on Tuesday.
“We celebrate this heritage with the conscious understanding that there is a great deal about our history that is bad and hurtful, yet we must accept it as part of the growing pains of the free society we set out to create,” Motlanthe said.
He was speaking at the Sisa Sukashe Stadium in Mdantsane, Eastern Cape as part of national celebrations for Heritage Day.
The township recently commemorated the 50th anniversary of its the establishment.
“The living conditions in Mdantsane, like those in many other South African townships, helped educate and conscientise many people about the need to fight oppression.”
He said it was a township intended to be a labour reserve during the apartheid era, resulting in the destruction of many black South African lives.
Motlanthe said that although the 1913 Native Land Act was part of the country's heritage, people were still suffering from its the effects.
He described the act as a statute through which black people were dispossessed of their land, livestock, seeds, wagons and all forms of production, thus robbing them of their livelihoods, trampling on their dignity and violating their human rights.
“One of the central causes of poverty and under-development of a large section of our population today is this legacy of land dispossession, which is largely reflected through racial inequalities.”
The year 2013 also marked 100 years since the opening of the Union Buildings.
“It will be remembered that the Union Buildings were constructed as a symbol of unity between the English and the Afrikaners following the Act of Union of 1909. This act excluded black people from the main body politics of 1/8the country 3/8.”
Motlanthe acknowledged the country's upcoming 20th democracy anniversary and urged all to reflect on achievements obtained over the past two decades.
“We should seize opportunities like this to pay homage to those who came before us and made remarkable contributions to the evolution and development of our country.”