One thing is certain. I don’t need to argue it, you don’t need to be convinced of it: we - supposedly the pinnacle of the evolution of our species - we are an extraordinarily violent and greedy bunch.

When he was announcing to the world the unprecedented find of an as yet unknown branch of our lineage in 2015, at Maropeng, the official visitor centre to the Cradle of Humankind World Heritage Site, Premier David Makhura pondered the links between us - Homo sapiens and Lee Berger’s amazing find, of Homo naledi.

The Premier asked, in an almost offhand way, an extraordinary question. He asked whether we had considered the possibility that Homo naledi might have been better than us.

Let’s consider the question for a bit. And it is a question which will hang in the air, because we know almost nothing about the behaviour of Homo naledi. But it is possible that Homo naledi was not as violent as we are. Or as greedy. Or as selfish. Possibly that creature was kinder, more communitarian, more caring than we are.

We probably will never know the answer - but it is certainly a consideration worth making.

What we know for sure is that had we lived differently as a species, there would probably be no need to have a Day of Reconciliation. Because, mostly, it is a day when we remember how large the failures, the hurt, the pain and the self-inflicted suffering. This, down the generations. Never learning from our mistakes.

Of course it is also more than that. Because we humans are complex beasts indeed. We have the ability to decimate, but we also have the ability to seek forgiveness and healing. We have the ability to reflect and to care. We have the ability to ask forgiveness and to put things right.

I had the privilege of working, firstly, in an NGO which dealt with land rights and then I headed the office in the Western Cape in the Commission for Restitution.

I cannot describe the feeling, as a white South African man, in standing before claimants, who had their land snatched from under their feet, and on behalf of the government in which I served, making an unreserved apology.

And the unmitigated joy in signing off either financial compensation; or land; or the houses from which people had been evicted and returning it to them. I cannot describe it adequately. It was too powerful for words.

And every Day of Reconciliation, every year, this is what I reflect on. Because it isn’t about “just moving on” or “forgetting the past”. It can only be about recognising what happened - naming it directly and accepting blame where blame is due - and trying by all means to put it right.

I wish you all the courage to face the past and the desire to put things right. That is not about a public holiday. It is about the very fabric of our society. And it applies to Gender Based Violence. It applies to the millions who cannot thrive because of poverty, and racism, and prejudice. It applies to the environment which we are raping and destroying.

Reconciliation must involve changing what is bad and making it better.