Speech by Minister of Arts and Culture, Paul Mashatile, MP, on the occasion of the 150th Anniversary of the arrival of the Indian Community in South Africa
4 Dec 2010
The Premier of KwaZulu-Natal, Dr. Zweli Mkhize
Honourable ministers and deputy ministers here present
Members of Parliament and the Provincial Legislature
The Deputy Mayor of the City of e-Thekwini, Councillor Lugie Naidoo
All Mayors and Councillors here present
Leaders of political parties
The Chairperson of the 1860 Legacy Foundation, Mr Ramlutchman
Ladies and gentlemen
We have met here today to mark the 150th Anniversary of the arrival of the first Indian indentured workers and the birth of the Indian community in South Africa.
On this important occasion, we wish to reiterate once more that; the South African Indian community, whose fore-fathers came from India to work as indentured labourers, 150 years ago, are today as South African as any other citizen of our country.
As we mark this anniversary we do so to remember not just the arrival of those brave Indian labourers, but also to celebrate the contribution of the South African Indian community to the overall development of our society.
Indeed, we recognise and pay tribute to the important role the Indian community continues to play in the fields of business, sports, science and technology, religion, arts, and broadly in the reconstruction and development of our society.
We honour the courage, the spirit of sacrifice, hard work and love for our country that was demonstrated by those early Indian labourers, who had to endure harsh working conditions that were reminiscent of slavery.
Like their fellow African brothers and sisters, they faced multiple forms of exclusion, denial, discrimination and even humiliation.
Despite this they made South Africa their home. They persevered, worked hard and toiled their way out of the yoke of slavery and today they have achieved excellence in different fields.
As a nation we are inspired by the legacy of those early Indian labourers whose contribution to our society forms the basis of who we are as a nation.
This we can say without fear of contradiction that; the arrival of Indians in South Africa, 150 years ago, unleashed heroes and heroins who made an immense contribution to our struggle for liberation.
We recall the many leading activists, revolutionaries and visionaries from within the ranks of the Indian community who embraced the noble vision of a united, non racial, democratic and prosperous South Africa.
We recall the establishment of the Natal Indian Congress in 1894, by one of the leading humanists Mahatma Ghandi, to fight against the discrimination of Indian trades in Natal.
We also recall the subsequent formation of the Transvaal and the Cape Indian Congresses all whom led to the formation of the South African Indian Congress in 1919.
We applaud the role played by many Indian activists who joined hands with progressive Africans to mount a nonracial offensive against injustice and inequality in our country.
We carry with us fond memories of the combined struggles of our people, such as the Defiance Campaign of 1952, which saw leaders of the Indian community occupying the foremost trenches during this campaign.
Indeed we will never forget that Walter Sisulu and Nana Sita, an activist from within the Indian community, were amoung the first volunteers to be arrested during this historic campaign.
Nana Sita and his generation of leaders from the Indian community such as Dr. Monty Naicker, Ahmed Kathrad, Dr Yusf Dadoo, Ismail and Fatima Meer and Amma Naidoo, drew inspiration from Ghandi.
They stand along side other giants of our struggle such as Nelson Mandela, Helen Joseph, Joe Slovo, Moses Kotane, Ma-Bertha Gxowa as well as Reggie and Dulcie September.
As we today celebrate the proud legacy of the Indian community in South Africa, and their triumph against slavery, oppression and discrimination, we must recommit ourselves to the ideal of united, non racial, non sexist, democratic and prosperous South Africa.
This we must do because many of our Indian compatriots stood for this ideal.
Some of them paid the ultimate price for us to achieve this ideal, and many of them are today working hard to defend this ideal.
Together we must intensify the work we are doing to build social cohesion, a common nationhood and deepen national pride.
We must work hard to reach a point in our society where we put our common South African-ness first before anything else.
We must use our diversity, to propel us towards a common future, rooted in one overriding South African identity.
Both in word and through action we must continue to make the point that; what unites us far outweighs that which divides us.
We must use our cultural diversity not as a stumbling block towards national unity, reconciliation and social cohesion.
Indeed we must fully appreciate that; South Africa belongs to all who live in it, black and white.
Let us sustain the spirit of patriotism and national pride that was so abundant during the FIFA World Cup.
Let us take pride in our national symbols, continue to fly the South African flag and sing the national anthem with pride.
Like we did during the World Cup, let us continue to show compassion and embrace all of humanity especially our brothers and sister within our continent.
This we must do as part of ongoing efforts to build a caring society, rooted in the values of Ubuntu.
As we build social cohesion we must also pay attention to the urgent need to reduce inequality in our society.
This requires that we expand access to employment and other economic opportunities to all.
Our policies must continue to maintain a deliberate bias towards the poor, the youth, women and people with disabilities.
Programme director, in the coming months as the Department of Arts and Culture we will initiate dialogues on social cohesion amoung various stakeholders.
Through these dialogues we hope to find comprehensive responses to the critical question; What does it mean to be South African?
We also hope to answer the question; What is it that we can do to build greater social cohesion within the our society?
As we seek answers to these important national questions, we will do so guided by the vision articulated by the former President of the ANC and one of the founding fathers of our democratic nation, Oliver Tambo who said:
“It is our responsibility to break down bearers of division and create a country where there will be neither Whites nor Blacks, just South Africans, free and united in diversity.”
I take this opportunity to wish the Indian community in South African a happy 150 years anniversary.
This is a celebration for all South Africans.
It is a celebration of where we come from as a nation and a celebration about the kind of society we seek to build.
Let us all enjoy it.
Source: Department of Arts and Culture
Issued by: Department of Arts and Culture
4 Dec 2010
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