Celebrating our diversity

Posted on September 24, 2015

In 1996, the late President, Nelson Mandela, declared: "When our first democratically elected government decided to make Heritage Day one of our national days, we did so because we knew that our rich and varied cultural heritage has a profound power to help build our new nation."

Heritage Day provides an opportunity to celebrate the diversity of the people, cultures, histories, languages, religions, and traditions of South Africa in the spirit of the nation’s motto, !ke e: ǀxarra |ke, or unity in diversity. The motto poignantly captures what South Africans have strived for over many years and is intended to symbolise the confluence of the rich diversity of cultures, histories, languages and traditions of South African society.

Cognisant of the historically deep and nearly intractable social divisions that characterised pre-1994 South Africa, the University of Pretoria has embarked on a deliberate and focused path to become an inclusive institution in which everyone, irrespective of background, is welcomed and feels at home. Moreover, the University has launched various projects (including International Students’ Day and projects such as Re-A-Bua) aimed at contributing to the building of a new inclusive society that eschews all that divided South African society prior to 1994. We are fortunate to have a diversity of staff and students at the University from every corner of South Africa and from a multitude of countries whose cultures, histories and traditions add to the vibrant ethos that has come to characterise the University; an ethos that makes for a rich academic and social experience, facilitating learning, understanding, growth and, ultimately, excellence.

In whatever manner you will be celebrating Heritage Day, I urge you to reflect for a moment on the meaning of the day, and think about what you can and will do to add to the University of Pretoria’s contribution to South Africa’s aspiration to being a country marked not only by its richly diverse histories, languages, customs, and traditions, but also a country that is united in its diversity. In this manner you will also give substance to the University’s recently coined motto of “making today matter”. Enjoy the Day.


Prof Cheryl de la Rey
Vice-Chancellor and Principal


- Author Department of University Relations

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