Erfenismaand-toespraak in die Vrystaatse Wetgewer

2015-09-22
Wouter Wessels

By definition it is the full range of our inherited traditions, monuments, objects and culture. We have natural heritage which include fauna and flora. Then there is cultural heritage – the legacy of physical artefacts and intangible attributes of a group, community or society.

South Africa is a community of communities. We are a diverse country with a diverse heritage and a past filled with turmoil - colonialism, imperialism, wars, the Difaqane and apartheid. But also a past of achievements and survival amidst dire circumstances.

A group’s heritage is critical to its identity, as without a past there is no future.

2015 sal onthou word as ʼn jaar van polarisering op grond van erfenis, taal en kultuur. In April het die EFF mense aangehits om alle Afrikaner-standbeelde en -monumente te vandaliseer en af te breek. By universiteite, skole en kolleges is daar tans heftige debatte oor Afrikaans as ʼn taal van onderrig. By Elsenberg-landboukollege het persone wat deur die EFF aangehits is, gewelddadig geraak en studente aangerand.

Ons is beslis vandag verdeeld.

Hoe moet dit hanteer word?

Een opsie is om slegs een deel van ons geskiedenis te erken. Ons sien dit reeds in die voorgeskrewe geskiedenissillabus van skole waar ʼn eensydige vertolking geld.

ʼn Ander opsie is om alle kulturele erfenis uit te vee en af te breek en dan dalk ʼn gemene erfenis in die vorm van ons natuurskoon te ontwikkel. Of dalk geld Homo Naledi as gemeenskaplike erfenis – alhoewel daar baie verdeeldheid daaroor is. Of dalk moet ons sosiale sameklewingsfaktor sport wees, maar ons kan nie van een sportbyeenkoms na die volgende beweeg en dink ons is ʼn gesonde nasie nie. (En ons verloor teen Japan!) Hierdie opsie ignoreer diversiteit.

ʼn Derde opsie is ʼn inklusiewe benadering. ʼn Wen-wen oplossing waar diversiteit nie as probleem gesien word nie, maar bestuur word.

It is a huge mistake for a regime to attempt to rewrite history or erase history. Remember: governments change.

Take for example Great Britain: You will today find statues of Cromwell who overthrew the monarchy and next to him of Charles I who he had beheaded. Also, go to our parliament in Cape Town where the Afrikaner regime left the statue of Queen Victoria under whose reign Afrikaner people suffered, died in concentration camps and farms were burnt down. Even Robert Mugabe said the grave of Cecil John Rhodes should be left as it is a reminder of the past.

A responsible approach for a regime is to add, rather than erase and destruct. Taking away can never be regarded as transformation.

To build a better future, we need to be cognisant of our past – the good, the bad, the mistakes and the successes.

Our diversity – including languages and heritage – does not have to be a dividing factor. Unity in diversity is possible when we acknowledge diversity and acknowledge differences.

Nation building and social cohesion cannot be forced. In dictatorships such forceful national pride is attempted but fail. In a true democracy everybody must agree to the nation building recipe.

The former government could not force Mr Mandela to change his thinking. Likewise the current government cannot force a shared heritage and social cohesion by excluding minorities and not acknowledging their contributions and heritage.

We often hear, “South Africa belongs to all who live in it – black and white”, but one sided name changes of non-offensive names, only for the sake of political gain, divide.

Let us bring the words of the preamble to our constitution, to live:

“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.”

Speaker, let us learn from the past, be reminded of the mistakes in order not to repeat such, acknowledge positive contributions, live in the present and focus on the future.