Arts and Culture Minister Pallo Jordaan this week paid homage to former African National Congress (ANC) leader Oliver Tambo, saying his vision of embracing cultural diversity was the key to South Africa’s collective strength.
Brand South Africa reporter
Speaking during a special joint sitting of Parliament in Cape Town on Thursday, Jordaan referred to the words spoken by Tambo on Radio Freedom on 8 January 1979.
“Let us in South Africa learn to stop being Bantus, coloureds, Indians and whites,” Tambo said. “Let us be what we are, Africans in Africa.
“Let those who are committed racists, who came to this continent determined to keep Africans in chains, to be perpetual masters over blacks – let them persist in their role as foreigners on African soil.”
Jordaan said Tambo’s profoundly anti-racist ethos was rooted as much in his politics as in his deeply held Christian values.
Underscoring the foresight of Tambo, Jordaan cited the notion of cultural diversity as defined by a group of independent experts set up by the United Nations Educational, Cultural and Scientific Organisation (Unesco).
Under their definition cultural diversity is “the manifold ways in which the cultures of social groups and societies find expression”.
As such, cultural diversity, in which the cultural heritage of all South Africans is recognised and affirmed, is South Africa’s collective strength, and one which could “benefit the entire world,” Jordaan said.
South Africa’s cultural heritage is drawn from three continents, Jordaan told Members of Parliament, and “[h]umanism, that affirms the dignity and worth of all people, based on our human capacity to reason, is the connecting thread among these traditions.”
Jordaan described how Tambo, who led the ANC from 1969 until his death in 1993, established South Africa’s first African legal practice with Nelson Mandela in Johannesburg in December 1952.
This was after Tambo gave up teaching mathematics and science to study law in 1948. The practice came to an end when Tambo was arrested, along with 155 others, on charges of high treason on 6 December 1956.
Soon afterwards, Tambo was instructed to travel abroad and establish an external mission for the ANC and to mobilise international support for the movement’s struggle for freedom.
He led the ANC from exile as well as in South Africa, spending the following decades building up a powerful and progressive movement that was eventually to create a democracy now shared by all South Africans.
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