Johannesburg: President Jacob Zuma has called on South Africans to unite and work together in addressing the issues that are facing the country.
“We still have to work together to make South Africa move forward. We still have a lot more work to do because the legacy of apartheid left millions of our people living in abject poverty and deprivation,” President Zuma said.
He encouraged artists, who had gathered at the arts and culture veterans’ gala dinner in Sandton on Tuesday, to be part of the journey of building a new South Africa, one that is united, non-racial, non-sexist and prosperous.
“We still need songs, poems and books to encourage us, to tell us that it is not yet over. In other words, to participate as you did before in the struggle to liberate ourselves, particularly economically,” President Zuma said.
He said the arts, culture and heritage sector was pivotal for nation building and social cohesion.
“This is the role and responsibility that we have placed on you as the sector, to redefine the soul of this new nation and use your talent and skills for radical consciousness towards economic transformation,” President Zuma said.
He honoured artist such as Hugh Masekela, Jonas Gwangwa, Letta Mbulu, Caiphus Semenya, Julian Bahula and members of the Amandla Cultural Ensemble for contributing to the struggle for liberation and also the period of reconstruction and development of the country.
“We remember and salute our international icon, Mme Miriam Makeba, who, in the United Nations’ General Assembly in 1963, was the voice of the voiceless. With passion and conviction, she told the story of the plight of her people under apartheid,” President Zuma said.
He said many artists mobilised and galvanised the local population and international community to support the struggle and the aspirations to build a world with a human face.
“In the process, many artists were subjected to the brutal violence of an inhumane apartheid regime,” President Zuma said.
Other artists including poets, radio presenters, music presenters, writers and musicians were also honoured by President Zuma.
Making the arts prosper
He said recent research indicated that the contribution of music, craft, visual arts, books and film was estimated to be in excess of R15 billion, making the sector an important contributor to the economy and the country’s GDP.
“It is for this reason that the new vision of government, through the Department of Arts and Culture, is to refocus the role of the arts, culture and heritage sector to actively promote entrepreneurship across the value chain of the arts and culture industry,” President Zuma said.
In 2009, government formed the Cultural and Creative Industries Federation of South Africa, which was aimed at assisting the arts, culture and heritage sector to be organised so that it can effectively deal with the challenges it faces.
These include funding, piracy, exploitation, lack of social security and lack of recognition as workers.
He said government was determined to assist as much as possible to fight piracy by including the police, SA Revenue Service and the criminal justice system in its fight.
“Our people need to know that piracy kills music and destroys the livelihoods of their favourite artists. We need to work together to get that message across,” President Zuma said.
He said artists were still grappling with issues such as social security, the distribution of royalties and tax matters.
“That is all work in progress to be discussed at other forums that have been created for collaboration with government,” President Zuma said.
SOURCE: SOUTH AFRICAN OFFICIAL NEWS