SA should celebrate its cultural heritage and acknowledge that cultures did not develop in isolation, Deputy President Kgalema Motlanthe said.
"We should not enclose what we deem to be our racial or ethnic cultural heritage within the walls of Jericho," he said in a speech in Upington, in the Northern Cape, on Monday.
"Culture does over-flow boundaries of time, race and ethnicity since it is the totality of lived reality." Most South African cultures had influenced each other. "Even at a time when racial domination was scarring the South African social landscape, cultural influences still managed to find outlets to decant into different social domains."
Evidence of this could be found in modern South African languages, where words from other cultures were often incorporated into another culture's vocabulary.
Heritage Day was for the celebration of individual and collective cultural, traditional or ethnic identities. These elements made South Africa unique in its rich diversity, he said.
"[Heritage Day] seeks to acknowledge our injurious past and the history which diminished the use and status of indigenous languages and free cultural expression. "Celebrating this heritage, therefore, is part of our efforts of healing the divisions of the past and establishing a society based on democratic values, social justice and fundamental human rights."
During apartheid, culture was used as a tool of racial oppression, but it was now a unifying force to be celebrated by all. "If in the past the main enemy was the oppressive system of apartheid that held up the cultural interests of a few people in this country, today the biggest enemy facing our society is the triple problem of poverty, inequality and unemployment," Motlanthe said.
Corruption needed to be eliminated as it undermined the government's ability to deliver services.
"Resources that are meant to improve conditions and lives of our people are diverted by the few, well-positioned individuals to feed their insatiable greed."
Celebrating South Africa's common heritage signalled that the country was leaving behind its divisive past, he said. "Let us use this day to move towards that vision of national unity and cultural harmony." – Sapa