The Constitution recognises our differences and diversity and therefore seeks to protect and promote, for instance, the linguistic, cultural and religious rights of every person in South Africa. It recognises that we are not a homogenic society and that, due to our past and diversity, we may view the world and people around us in different ways. Hence, within the parameters of our constitutional values and rights, our Constitution provides for a diverse society in which these differences must be recognised and respected.

Nonetheless, such a diverse heritage must be celebrated within the context of those shared values and rights. It requires mutual respect and a willingness to learn from each other. As such, we have to share our stories with those who do not share our mother tongue; culture or traditions, and we have to appreciate theirs. We have to listen to each other in order to learn from one another so as to truly understand our differences. It is only when we start listening to the stories of other South Africans that we will come to hear how much we have to learn from each other, but also how much we have in common – albeit from different perspectives.

Celebrate diversity – that which makes you unique as a South African – but also celebrate unity and a common culture that we have been cultivating over the past 20 years. A culture united by our Constitution, branded by our flag and tempered by our resilience to be one nation – even if that means to share a braai.

Unfortunately, politicians and pressure groups by their very nature seek to promote only what is in their respective constituencies’ interest – the latter not often conducive to unity, mutual respect or a common understanding. Unity is thus up to us. No one will serve it to us on a platter. We have to light that fire and invite the guests, since, if we keep braaiing on our own, our heritage will divide us. On the other hand, sharing what is dear to us – our history, traditions and stories – will unite us in our diversity. It will foster mutual respect and the ability to appreciate – and even change – our different views, perceptions and preconceived ideas of each other. Share your story this Heritage Day with a fellow South African who has a different heritage and history, and invite another South African over to celebrate theirs with you.

By Adv Johan Kruger, Director: Centre for Constitutional Rights

Photo credit: Celso Flores / Foter / CC BY