President Cyril Ramaphosa batted away populist calls on Thursday for Die Stem to be removed from the national anthem, saying “we should not reject that which unites us”.
Ramaphosa was giving an oral reply to a question from FF Plus MP Dr Cornelius Mulder who asked, “with reference to Section 83(c) of the Constitution of the Republic of South Africa, 1996, which requires that he promotes the unity of the nation and that which will advance the republic”, how Ramaphosa saw himself fulfilling this constitutional obligation as head of state and how he intended to address the “current alienation of minorities in the republic”.
To this, the president responded that “if it is true that there are ‘minorities’ that are alienated, then we need to find out why, although I would hesitate to use the word ‘minorities’; I would say that there are sort of groups of people who feel they are alienated”.
“Perhaps it is time for us to challenge this idea of so-called ‘minorities’.
“It is indeed true that South Africa is made up of people of different races, ethnicities, language groups and religions, but we are all part of the greater South African people,” Ramaphosa said.
“Whatever our individual backgrounds are or circumstances, we are all part of the majority.
“South Africa belongs to all of us equally and we must all feel that we belong to this South Africa, regardless of the various differences that we may have along the lines of language, region or colour.”
EFF MP Ngwanamakwetle Mashabela, in a supplementary question to the president, said “there is a growing tendency in society which would like us to believe that unity means forgetting the injustices of the past which are manifested in the present”.
“What must be the premise of that unity? Should it not be a thoroughgoing transformation of society that includes a rejection of colonialism and apartheid and all that represents including the inclusion of Die Stem in our national anthem?”
Ramaphosa responded by saying: “Yes, unity should not mean forgetting the injustices of the past … yes indeed rejecting what represented those injustices in the past in the form of colonialism and apartheid.
“The issue of Die Stem, the part of our national anthem is what we arrived at, as a symbol of enabling us to build the nation that we are. And as I said, as we proceed on this basis there are compromises, accommodations that need to be made.
“I once said to one president that I know of no country in the whole world that has a national anthem that is sung at the same time in four languages. In Sesotho, in Nguni language, in English and in Afrikaans. That is what represents who we are as a nation and I think we should not reject that which unites us. Everything that unites us we must embrace and we must reject everything that divides us.
“Those that hanker for the past and for the vierkleur know that that divides us, they must put it aside, we must embrace everything that unites us,” said the president.
Ramphosa, in response to Malema who rose to his feet and said: “Die Stem, gaan uit,” said “we need to understand that we have embarked on a journey, a journey that started 25 years ago”.
“It involves understanding one another, being able to be aware of the concerns of all of us and embracing one another as one nation.”
News24 reported that following Wednesday’s Equality Court ruling that the gratuitous display of the apartheid flag constitutes hate speech, unfair discrimination and harassment, the EFF intensified calls for Ramaphosa to remove Die Stem from South Africa’s national anthem.
In a statement, EFF national spokesperson Dr Mbuyiseni Ndlozi said the party had long called for the flag and other apartheid symbols to be removed.
“It must be common cause that the apartheid national anthem must follow after its flag. The apartheid flag and its anthem belong to the same species. They are the two sides of one coin.”