Speech by Manny de Freitas MP
Distinguished ladies and gentlemen,
The celebration of Madeira Day is an important one as the majority of the Portuguese community in South Africa is of Madeiran descent. In addition the relationship between South Africa and Portugal is a special one as it goes back to the days of when the Portuguese were exploring new shores.
It was on our shores that our distinguished and noble ancestors were the first Europeans to land. Imagine the excitement and elation these pioneering Portuguese explorers, Bartolmeu Dias and his crew must’ve felt when they reached the very southern tip of Africa.
As a Luso-descendent who is also of Madeiran descent, I am thus inherently disposed to the emotion of pride when I am exposed to anything Portuguese. I cannot ignore it. The amazing thing is that most of our generation and younger generations are not even conscience of this. We are predisposed to have certain values; the importance of family, our commitment to working hard to achieve, our desire to succeed and progress, our ingrained compassion and our nature to look for opportunities as Bartolmeu Dias did when searching for this new land.
As a result we have communities, not just here in Gauteng or even South Africa but, all over the world who have these qualities. Madeiranimmigrants who left the Pearl of the Atlantic, like my parents, left because they had a fearless vision for a better future and pursued opportunities that were available to them.
Just like my parents, millions of others settled in South Africa and all over the world. They weren’t afraid to work hard, progress and become pioneers in their fields. They created families and ensured that they formed the centre of our communities and lives.
At the same time, because we are inherently caring, compassionate and social people; we established charities, clubs, associations and other organisations to cater for our social needs and to defend those less privileged than ourselves.
My experience has shown me that throughout my life, the Madeiranshave these common inherenttraits. Traits of Freedom, Fairness and Opportunity.
In addition, we can’t help but love anything of a Portuguese, and specifically of a Madeiran flavour. Modern parents in South Africa do a great disservice to their children when they do not teach them the Portuguese language. It doesn’t matter if you are unable to speak the language well yourself. I mean look at me: rather speak Portuguese badly than not at all!
Believe me, your children will thank youfor the gift of Portuguese. I have yet to meet any Luso-descendent that has thanked their parents for not teaching them the beautiful, expressive, romantic language of Camões, the eighth most spoken language in the world.
In the cases of Luso-descendants who do not speak Portuguese, they have that Luso-fire that is inside of us that can’t be put out. A few years ago, I had the privilege of attending a world meeting of people in public office of Luso-descendants. I met a City Councillor of the City of New Bedford in Massachusetts in the United States. Joe Lopes doesn’t speak a single word of Portuguese. The last person in his family that could speak the language was his grand-father, yet he is more Portuguese than I could ever be. He loves anything that is Portuguese. He is involved in his local community, the Church and is involved in organising the largest Madeiran festival in the world – with an attendance of over 100 000 people!
The reality is that in our South African community we are making a contribution to the construction of our rainbow nation. Now more than ever, when our country is going through a very tumultuous economic and political period, our contributions and hard work continue to as in the past can contribute to South Africa.