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We must be aware of and check our own acts of racism, prejudice, says Ramaphosa

The president delivered the national Heritage Day keynote address on Thursday under the theme ‘Celebrating South Africa’s Living Human Treasures’.

FILE: President Cyril Ramaphosa. Picture: @PresidencyZA/Twitter

JOHANNESBURG - President Cyril Ramaphosa on Thursday urged South Africans to use Heritage Day to reclaim their identity and re-establish the spirit of Ubuntu as a nation.

The president delivered the national Heritage Day keynote address under the theme Celebrating South Africa’s Living Human Treasures.

Ramaphosa also used the occasion to honour legends, including Dr Esther Mahlangu, Madosini Latozi Mpahleni, and Ouma Katrina Letsau, who he said had upheld the country’s unique customs and traditions.

He said South Africa’s complicated and divisive history ridiculed the culture, identity, and appearance of many citizens.

Referring to the controversial Clicks TRESemmé advert, which sparked widespread outrage across the country, Ramaphosa said in order to achieve a united nation citizens should be aware of the country’s past and their own prejudice.

“An offensive hair advertisement that was recently published shows that we still have a long way to go,” Ramaphosa said.

He added: “It is disheartening to see that in democratic South Africa, there are still crude stereotypes of black women being put on public display.

“The social cohesion we seek in this country means we must be mindful of the legacy of our past, whether we are businesses selling products, whether we are producers of content for television, or otherwise.

“Building a united nation means we must be aware of and check our own acts of racism and prejudice continuously.”

The president said while South Africa continued to make a mark in the world through its display of culture, monuments glorifying a dark time in the country’s history should be repositioned and relocated, despite the controversy this has generated.

“This has generated controversy, with some saying we are trying to erase our history. Building a truly non-racial society means being sensitive to the lived experiences of all this country’s people,” Ramaphosa said.

“We make no apologies for this because our objective is to build a united nation. Any symbol, monument, or activity that glorifies racism, that represents our ugly past, has no place in democratic South Africa.”

The president said future generations should be proud to inherit a democracy that affirmed the worth and dignity of all its citizens.

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