25/09/2017 10:44 SAST | Updated 25/09/2017 10:44 SAST

Three Political Parties, Three Different Heritage Day Messages

Economic inclusion, decolonisation and gender equality -- these were top of mind for SA's political leaders.

Marchers participate in a Heritage Day carnival celebrating the country's diverse cultures and origins in Pretoria, South Africa, September 24, 2017. REUTERS/James Oatway
James Oatway / Reuters
Marchers participate in a Heritage Day carnival celebrating the country's diverse cultures and origins in Pretoria, South Africa, September 24, 2017. REUTERS/James Oatway

Economic inclusion, decolonisation, gender equality and gender-based violence.

These were some of the themes from the country's big three political parties who had very different messages for South Africans on Heritage Day.

ANC: protect women and children

President Jacob Zuma, who was speaking at a Heritage Day celebration in Mpumalanga, appealed to all South Africans to protect women and children from abuse and "cold-blooded murders".

He urged for the discontinuation of cultural practices that violate the rights of young children, such as forced marriages.

"Let us also ensure maximum health, safety and security in the initiation schools, and ensure that these are sanctioned by relevant authorities such as traditional leaders so that we can protect our young people," Zuma said.

"Let us unite against corruption and crime in our communities and in our country. These scourges should not divide us at all... They require national unity of purpose and action, regardless of political affiliation."

Zuma also highlighted the role of women and young people in South Africa's liberation.

He said the growth of the women's movement after the founding of the ANC Women's League in 1941 and the Federation of South African Women in 1954 had an impact in influencing questions of race and class within the ranks of the movement.

"The youth has also made a visible impact at most critical moments in the country's liberation history from the 1950s when they breathed life into the struggle during the defiance campaign to 1976 with the student uprising," he said.

DA: Apartheid's biggest weapon was economic dispossession

Opposition leader Mmusi Maimane -- who was addressing supporters at the old JSE building in Newtown -– said during apartheid, ownership of the economy was reserved for a minority.

"More than two decades into our democracy, the project of building a prosperous and inclusive economy has ground to a halt, because the people entrusted with this project have shifted their attention to other things," Maimane said.

"They have turned their attention to ways of helping themselves to the money meant for the people. They have turned their attention to fighting off the factions that threaten their grip on power and wealth."

He said it was the duty of all South Africans to build an inclusive economy.

"Given our brutal history, where large sections of society's culture and traditions were dismissed and oppressed, it is important that we reclaim our heritage... Our shared heritage is a society where a child's opportunities in life are still determined by the circumstances of her birth," he said.

"And we owe it to our children to ensure that their heritage is a more just, inclusive country than the South Africa you see today."

EFF: colonisation created an environment of shame

In a statement, the EFF said it reiterates its calls for the decolonisation of the curriculum in South African universities; for "Die Stem" to be removed from the national anthem; for apartheid and colonial symbols to be removed from public spaces; and for land redistribution.

"We call on scholarship funding to be created on studies that promote usage of our indigenous languages and histories... 'Die Stem' is an apartheid anti-black war song that belongs in the dustbin of history. It does not belong in the proud melodies of a multiracial democratic South African," the party said.

"The EFF reiterates that without land and ownership of the minerals beneath the soil, celebrating heritage is futile. A landless people ought to use their heritage to marshal their collective strength to fight for a place to call home."