We, the people of South Africa,

Recognise the injustices of our past;

Honour those who suffered for justice and freedom in our land;

Respect those who have worked to build and develop our country; and

Believe that South Africa belongs to all who live in it, united in our diversity.

Those words appear at the start of the preamble to our Constitution – widely considered to be one of the finest in the world. And in those few opening lines, the spirit of our Constitution, and the intentions of its authors, are perfectly captured.

It describes a country striving to overcome its unjust past and build a better future, and recognises that it can only do so if the people of this country respect and embrace each other’s differences while remaining united in a pursuit of this common goal.

On this Heritage Day, let us remember what those authors of our Constitution envisaged for us. Let us each enjoy celebrating our rich diversity, but let us also remember that there is far more that unites us than that which divides us.

Let us discover the strength we have when we tackle our problems standing side by side. And let us never lose sight of the fact that we all belong here in this beautiful country of ours.

We South Africans are a proud people. We have immense pride in our country and in the achievements of our fellow citizens, but we also have a truly unique sense of humour as a nation. We often find reasons to laugh at all the craziness around us, when others elsewhere might despair.

We are made of stern stuff because we have overcome so much together.

And it is because of this that we will not allow our South African project to be derailed by those who try to divide us once more. We haven’t come this far only to be scuppered by people who don’t share our vision – opportunists who seek to advance their own aims by stoking mistrust, fear and resentment among us.

Being this melting pot of cultures, languages and religions is our strength. It’s not a reason to retreat into little corners of sameness. It’s not a reason to seek out only those who look like you and speak like you, and then regard everyone else with suspicion.

If you look around you, you will find many other South Africans from all walks of life who want the same things for our country – who love the fact that we are a bright and colourful garden – and who have no interest in negativity and division.

Those are the people you should seek out, and I can tell you that you’ll find many of them in the DA.

I am proud to lead the most diverse, most tolerant party in our country’s history. I see, in the DA’s vibrant diversity, the incredible potential that a united South Africa has. And I want to invite you to be part of this too.

Join a bunch of people who only care about building our country into something much better than it is today. And when others try to convince you to side with their parties that only care for and fight for a particular little slice of South Africans, tell them “no thanks”. Tell them you have bigger plans for this country.

Wherever you are today, and whatever you’ve chosen to do to celebrate your heritage, I hope you have a wonderful day. Be proud of your story, be proudly South African, and just enjoy being part of this uniquely colourful tapestry that is our beautiful country.

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John Steenhuisen

John Steenhuisen is federal leader of the Democratic Alliance, opposition party of the Republic of South Africa.

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