We, the People: a 2020 Heritage Day call to unite behind the Constitution


Dawn Robertson, Constitution Hill CEO: “Ours is a constitution for the people. We each own it. Let’s also work to make its promise real.”


As Constitution Hill, South Africa’s pre-eminent heritage site and human rights precinct, reopens this Heritage Day, 2020 it’s calling on all South Africans to join its We, the People movement that’s inspiring the nation to unite behind the Preamble of the Constitution. 


Constitution Hill was closed for nearly six months during levels 5 to 2 of the national lockdown to contain the spread of Covid-19.


“The Constitution’s Preamble starts with the three words, ‘We, the People’, which signify a pact made in our names that the vision of the Constitution will be made real only if we work together in the same tradition as our forebears, who played their part in fighting for and enacting the Constitution,” says Dawn Robertson, CEO of the Constitution Hill Human Rights Precinct.


It’s therefore fitting, she says, that we celebrate this heritage with the reopening of Constitution Hill, which tells the South African story, from before the founding of the country, up until today.


The We, the People campaign has been conceived from our sense of mission to animate the Constitution and help bridge the gap between its values and ideals, and our lived reality, she adds.


“Despite many challenges, including an unexpected pandemic, we still see 2020 as an opportunity to enter this new decade with the spirit of reaffirming and reigniting the passion for our constitutional values.”


What makes Heritage Day 2020 even more significant is the launch of an online exhibition and archive that tell the story of the making of the South African Constitution and the Constitutional Court. The online exhibition, Our Struggle, Our Freedom, Our Constitution, has been two years in the making, and provides a detailed account of how South Africa came to adopt the most celebrated constitution in the world.  It draws on a rich archive, creativity and personal narratives in telling the national narrative.


“The Covid-19 pandemic showed us the need for and the power of online offerings. We hope this exhibition will reach people across the world,” Robertson says. 


The We, the People campaign started in August with the launch of the WE THE PEOPLE T-shirt designed by Tshepo Mohlala of Tshepo Jeans in collaboration with Constitution Hill and Woolworths. Portions of the proceeds of the T-shirt have supported Covid-19 relief initiatives.  In the second week of September, Constitution Hill launched a remake of the famous Hugh Masekela song, Thuma Mina, this time performed by pre-eminent South African entertainers. 


As part of the We, the People campaign there are plans well under way to host a series of roundtable discussion events on the meaning of the Preamble and our Constitution; to launch a design competition that will invite artists to creatively express the meaning of the Preamble; and to release a collaboration with the Ndlovu Youth Choir on a musical rendition of the Preamble.


The We, the People movement is inspired by the Preamble to the Constitution, and is an invitation to the nation to revisit the Preamble, to visit the Constitution Hill precinct itself or the online exhibition, and to explore the rich, textured and often very difficult history that gave rise to South Africa’s democracy, and the Constitution that underpins it.


Through various upcoming initiatives, Constitution Hill is striving to inspire a proud, knowledgeable and creative nation by making the Constitution and its history accessible to all; by promoting informed dialogues about our past, present and future; and by encouraging people to take greater action towards building trust in South Africa’s constitutional democracy. 


“This Heritage Day,” says Robertson, “as you get dressed in the clothing that tells everyone who you are and where you come from, or as you gather to enjoy time with family and friends think, too, of the national heritage of which we are each a part: united in our diversity.


“Please join the We, the People movement, rally behind the Preamble to the Constitution, and remind yourself, and those you spend the day with, that South Africa’s Constitution is a constitution for the people. We each own it, and we all have the privilege of celebrating it, and the responsibility of working to make its promises real.”

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