What is wonderful about Heritage Day (as one of the “new” holidays in the not so new South Africa) is that we can look back and celebrate what we have achieved over the past 22 years. For many it will go back further than 22 years - to our cultural and traditional past - that is also part of our heritage, individually and collectively. “Heritage” means different things to different people.
Some will say that in 2016 there is nothing to celebrate - among them are angry students, persistent grumblers and disillusioned poor people. They will point out our problems at the political level, government level and Zuma level; the student riots and arson; the Springboks, Bafana Bafana and the Proteas’ poor or mediocre performances; the weak economy; unemployment, poverty and inequality; and the drought and high food prices.
Others, with a more positive attitude, will point out that there was at least something to celebrate. Over the past quarter there was somewhat better economic growth than expected, there are signs that we are closer to the tipping point in the political turbulence, we had reasonably peaceful and free municipal elections - where democracy was extended - and our athletes performed well at the Olympic and Paralympic Games.
And yet more will have something to celebrate and reflect upon - some of this will be personal (for example, related to family) - and some of this will be collective (for example, related to culture).
Many South Africans (and, if you believe the adverts) of all races, will celebrate Heritage Day with that typically South African activity: the braai. It is one of the words that almost all South Africans know and use. And it is also a part of our increasingly shared heritage. But I think most South Africans would agree that Heritage Day is (and should be) about much more than having a braai.
To celebrate Heritage Day properly, we must celebrate it together. This does not necessarily mean physically together, but together in spirit, in sentiment. This is not just a day for diversity, it is also, especially, a day for unity. Of course diversity is not wrong - it is what informs our cultural and linguistic and religious heritage. But Heritage Day must also celebrate our unity.
That around which we can best celebrate our 2016 Heritage Day, that which will best display our shared spirit, shared sentiment and shared patriotism, is the Constitution. The Constitution is (still) highly regarded and respected, by and large, by the majority of South Africans. And, together with the Rule of Law, it is beginning to play an important role in lifting us out of our political quagmire. The Constitution can further unite us in the future, despite all our differences and diversity.
So: on Heritage Day 2016 raise your glass (of wine or water) to the Constitution of the Republic of South Africa. It is your heritage, it is my heritage, it is our heritage.
By Dr Theuns Eloff, Executive Director, FW de Klerk Foundation