Parliament, Monday 23 September 2019 – The Presiding Officers of Parliament led by the Speaker of the National Assembly, Ms Thandi Modise and National Council of Provinces Chairperson, Mr Amos Masondo, call upon all South Africans to embrace diversity and tolerance, and focus on what unites the nation as everybody celebrates the Heritage Day tomorrow, 24 September 2019.

It is a day set aside to celebrate the richness of South Africa’s unique cultures and history where communities showcase their heritage through creative expressions of music and performance, educate and contribute to the transfer of indigenous knowledge. According to the United Nations Educational and Scientific Organisation(UNESCO), South Africa is home to eight of the 981 World Heritage Sites, therefore this is a time to embrace and visit the various heritage landscapes and sites.

Speaker Modise and Chairperson Masondo said “the country’s diversity is reflected in the rich spread of languages where approximately 25 different languages are spoken in our country, of which eleven (11), the majority being indigenous, have been recognised as official languages as well as the sign language. In a multilingual context, provision of language facilitation services in the legislative sector, including translation and the sign language, plays a pivotal role in facilitating and enhancing communication between communities and Parliament, thereby encourage meaningful participation in Parliamentary processes. UNESCO has declared 2019 the year of indigenous languages.”

“Every South African can freely express themselves in any of the official languages when participating in the work of parliament as translation services are readily available”, said the Presiding Officers. “We hope by the end of the Sixth Parliament, we would have achieved our goal of availing Parliamentary documents in all indigenous languages as this will ensure that all official languages are treated equitably and enjoy parity of esteem, as outlined in the constitution”, they further added.

“We urge South Africans to use the heritage celebrations as a time of reflection – on how individually and collectively we have contributed and challenges still faced in promoting social cohesion, and in building on our social compacts to promote peace, reconciliation and economic development,” said the Presiding Officers.

It is also a clarion call for all communities to preserve, restore and reclaim the country’s living heritage. In every community, there are living human treasures who possess a high degree of knowledge, skills and history about different aspects of diverse living, that should be harnessed.

”The recent attacks on fellow brothers and sisters from other African countries, the despicable killing of women and children are things we all should be ashamed of as a nation, and collectively pledge to rid our beautiful country of these unspeakable acts. We trust that together, with the criminal justice system and our partners from across the spectrum, we will deal harshly with the perpetrators of violence and remain vigilant in reversing these bad trends,” said the Presiding Officers.


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