We Cannot Forsake Our Heritage For Self-Gain

James Masango MPL

Provincial Chief Whip of the Official Opposition.

The following address was delivered by James Masango MPL to the Mpumalanga Provincial Legislature during the Snap Debate on Heritage Day.

Somlomo ngithabe kwamambala ukuthi nginikezwe lethuba lokukhuluma namuhla ngalesihloko kakhulu kule nyanga yamagugu wethu.

(Honourable Speaker, I am very happy and excited to have been granted the opportunity to participate in this debate on Heritage Day)

Ngomhlaka 24 September 2012, amaSewula Afrika azobe athola ithuba khumbula noku gidinga amagugu ethu.

(On 24 September 2012, South Africans will once again have the opportunity to reconnect and celebrate their history on National Heritage Day.)

As Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu once said, this day is known as South Africans celebrating their own diversity of heritage.

To describe the significance of Heritage in South Africa is a difficult task, as we all come from a huge mixture of different backgrounds. Yet, the definition of heritage described as “that which we inherit: the sum total of wild life and scenic parks, sites of scientific or historical importance, national monuments, historical buildings, works of art, literature and music, oral traditions and museum collections, together with their documentation.”

South African Heritage must be a combined celebration of all these contributing factors to our rainbow nation, and how all South Africans have worked to create this country and its history. It is a day of celebrating the diversity that brings us together as a strong nation and not to be separated and divided by our cultural differences.

The former and first democratically elected president of South Africa, uTata Nelson Mandela, probably the main driving force during the struggle for democracy stated:

“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. We did so knowing that the struggles against the injustice and inequities of the past are part of our national identity; they are part of our culture. We knew that, if indeed our nation has to rise like the proverbial phoenix from the ashes of division and conflict, we had to acknowledge those whose selfless efforts and talents were dedicated to this goal of non-racial democracy.”

Sonke siyalazi isiko lo “Ubuntu”. Sisa kholwela emphakathini esihla nawo futhi sisa kholelwa ekunakeleleni abomakhelwane njenge gugu ebesinalo kudala na? Impendulo i qha.

(We all know the culture of Ubuntu. Are we, who once believed in communities and taking care of your neighbours still upholding this important part of our heritage? The simple answer is no.)

South Africa is blessed with minerals and wildlife. The world knows our country as a country of beauty and vast diversity of wildlife. Yet again, I have to ask, can we as a country celebrate this blessing we received?

Our water systems are failing; raw sewage runs into rivers, harming fragile ecosystems and infecting the poorest of the poor. Rhino poachers are running wild, killing and maiming hundreds of these endangered species every year. Our mining industry has forgotten about the value of rehabilitation and our ecosystems, wetlands and rare bird life are on the brink of extinction. Procedures to operate a mine are no more an issue, and the health, safety and wellbeing of workers and citizens do not matter. What matters most is how much profit can be made in as short a period as possible.

If we have to honestly answer the question: Have we risen from the ashes as Nelson Mandela foresaw for this country? No, we have forgotten our heritage and the pride of our history and the hopes and dreams of those who fought for the rainbow nation. We are now driven by self-enrichment. Caring is solely about oneself, family members and friends.

The well-known anti-apartheid activist and lone Progressive Party (which eventually became the Democratic Alliance) MP, Ms Helen Suzman once said, “I stand for simple justice, equal opportunity and human rights. The indispensable element in a democratic society is well worth fighting for.”

While the government should be supportive of our history and heritage, it has not been the case with aMaNdebele ka Ndzundza. This tribe has the one of the richest and longest standing amongst the Ndebele tribes, built by visionary leaders such as the kings, Nyabele, Mayisha, and Mabhoko, to name just a few.

These kings and their followers did not submit to the trekboers, and fought down to the last man in defence of their land. One of the most important and most significant sites in this people’s heritage is the cave at Konomjherhele nearby Roossenekal.

Yet, the ANC-led government under the leadership of president Jacob Zuma saw it fit to do away with the kingship of the Ndzundza tribe, their culture, history and heritage.

This history, heritage and culture are important to all of us and it is vital that President Zuma respect that of all other tribes. Let their own traditional leaders deal with their internal issues, as they are far more capable of doing so.

I am proudly South African, and I continue to believe in the vision of Nelson Mandela and Helen Suzman. Let Heritage Day continue to be a day to commemorate our history, appreciate our country, and dream again about our future.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *