Remarks by Hon. Minister Nathi Mthethwa on the Occasion of interaction with the hellenic community of South Africa at SAHETI School, Johannesburg

20 March 2016

Arts and Culture Minister Mr Mathi Mthethwa-fLet me at the outset congratulate the Greek community on today’s celebration of your Independence Day which is officially marked on the 25 March.

This year marks the 195th anniversary of the freedom of the Republic of Greece from the oppression of Ottoman Empire. Those gallant Greek Patriots who gave up everything to guarantee the bright future for generations demonstrated to us through force of example that no matter the difficulties of the day, the human spirit would triumph over oppression.

One other important lesson that we can draw from the Greek Revolution is the application and upholding the principle of international solidarity. This was a principle that was also central in our struggle against apartheid, a principle that we hold dear as the governing party and government in addressing continental and world challenges today.

On this important day in your calendar, we gather here not only to celebrate this important anniversary, but also to reflect and plan the way forward for all who call South Africa their home for the full realisation of a united, non-racial, non-sexist, democratic and prosperous South Africa.

We have come to a crossroads in South Africa. Behind us is the dictatorship that was apartheid rule and before that centuries of segregation and apartheid.

The apartheid legacy still lives on in different ways and attempts to influence the direction we need to take in the present and the future.

In the present moment, there are forces at work who want us to return to the past and racism has reared its head in various quarters.

There are whose who live with the illusions of their own superiority despite the visible successes of our non-racial, non-sexist and democratic South Africa.

They want to return this country to the inequalities of the past and the unearned privileges it bestowed upon them.

They want to fan the fires of division and difference.

But they will not succeed. The journey towards a South Africa united in action against racism will not be derailed. We are on track.

But this is a shared journey and we welcome everyone on board who is willing to stay the course and build non-racialism and unity-in-diversity in this country of ours.

We welcome all who believe that what unites us is greater than what divides us, that the truths of history should overpower the prejudice and lies that reside in some people’s minds and how they lives their lives.

Therefore education is needed, conscious-raising, spreading the word on the importance of democracy, justice and equality in people’s lives.

Together we need to disseminate knowledge about the past; and the true stories of our history must continue to be told lest there are those who forget where we have come from and what has been sacrificed to bring us to the present.

There can be no sufficient understanding of modern day South Africa and hence the future we are constructing if such understanding does not proceed from the historical consciousness set off by earlier generations.

Because the present is but a synthesis of the contradictory forces of the past, learning to reflect on our past helps inoculate us, as far as possible, from the malady of repeating past follies.

It is now us who don the mask of past generations, inheriting and grappling with conditions that prevail in our country and the necessity to deepen the social transformation of our society.

Our actions and language must always translate back to the ideals that the past generations stood for.

The current leadership in every station of our work must perform the tasks of the time in the costumes and traditions of all those revolutionary generations who came before us and recreate, renew, revitalise and re-imagine.

In the spirit of the past generations, the current generation of South Africans of Greek origin continue to make their contribution in the efforts to build a better future for our country.

We should redouble our efforts to make our country a better place to live.

Together let us build this developmental state.

This will mean selfless sacrifice to ensure that through our contribution amongst others, we propel our nation to high places of social progress.

Nation-building in the context of South Africa cannot degenerate into the mere perpetuation of the hierarchies of the past, based on pre-given or ethnically engineered and imposed divisions of people rooted in prejudice, discrimination and exclusion.

The winning of the war against racism demands more than just a passion.

It also demands a systematic understanding and implementation of detailed plans to change the conditions facing us.

It demands a sober assessment of the obstacles in our way.

It demands dominance in our thinking of achievement over drama, sober minded action over lamentation.

In 1956, the late Dr Martin Luther King, Jr. made the following remarks, regarding the calibre of leadership that the period of transition needs. He said the following;

“In this period of transition and growing social change, there is a dire need for leaders who are calm and yet positive, leaders who avoid the extremes of “hotheadedness” and “uncle Tomism”. The urgency of the hour calls for leaders of wise judgement and sound integrity-leaders not in love with money, but in love with justice, leaders not in love with publicity, but in love with humanity, and growing social change  leaders who can subject their particular egos to the greatness of the cause.

The future calls for the participation of all freedom-loving people in developing this country into one in which all are fully free, all are truly equal.

We invite everyone to come on board and help to eradicate racism.

Together let us collectively ensure the practical actualisation of democracy, the realisation of non-racialism and equality in South Africa.

There is a need for us to refashion our own understanding of what is a nation and why it is necessary. It is only through the embrace of a nation state that we can take our rightful place in the world.

As we gathered here from various stations of life, we need to ask ourselves the candid question: to what extent are we promoting nation building and social cohesion, in our own areas of control and influence?

Given our socio-historical context, we cannot have an open and honest discussion on nation building and social cohesion without foregrounding it on race and racism.

Racism, like so many other ills – unemployment or poverty, for example – will be overcome only when our society joins its forces together to fight so that every South African enjoys the fruits of their own labor.

To you fellow compatriots, in this hour of destiny, your country and people need your calmness, clarity of thought and the devotion to the tasks at hand.

We cannot go back.

We can only move forward

We cannot be derailed.

Look around you and hold hands with those next to you because this is a symbol of unity.

Our unity against racism, against intolerance, against xenophobia.

Take time to educate others.

Tomorrow is Human Rights Day, which our President has said is a National Day of Action Against Racism.

Make your voices heard.

Take time to fight racism on all fronts and build a social network that encourages social cohesion.

Instil pride in South Africa as a home for all, a celebration of cosmopolitanism.

Together let us pledge today to harness our collective power to create a better South Africa in a better world.

Thank you.

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