It is an alarming reality that the opportunity to record the rich history of the Griqua and Mfengu peoples of the Tsitsikamma region of the Eastern Cape is passing us by as the elders of these groups are aging and dying. Heritage month is a time to reflect on the important knowledge of the past might soon be lost forever and before long we will have lost the opportunity to record the rich cultural heritage and stories of these groups.
It is for this reason that I have requested the MEC for Arts and Culture, Xoliswa Tom, to assist with the research, capturing of data, collation and content development of a dossier to record the histories of both the Griqua and Mfengu peoples.
I have also approached the newly established Eastern Cape Provincial Heritage Research Authority to help preserve this important aspect of the cultural heritage of the area.
The process aims to have sites in the Thornham, Sanddrift and Griekwasrust-areas declared as national heritage sites.
The grave site of Susanna Stuurman, a woman who is said to have travelled on foot ahead of Griqua nation from the Cape in 1927 to call on the clans to unite, is also in need of restoration. There are many other undocumented tales of graves in caves in the surrounding mountains.
We dare not lose the opportunity to record this history and lessons from the past for the development of educational publications for learners and tourists for benefit of the local community.
The formal recording of this history can play a significant role in unlocking the potential for cultural tourism in the Koukamma Municipality by linking it with other nearby sites including that of the grave of Sarah Baartman at Vergaderingskop, outside Hankey and that of the Griqua-leader Andrew Abraham Stockenström Le Fleur I, who is buried in a vault on Robberg near Plettenberg Bay.
I will make use of the fact that the Legislature’s annual Taking Parliament to the People will be taking place in October in Humansdorp, which is in close proximity to the area, to highlight the need to preserve this rich and unique history by means of a motion to the House.
The DA believes that the diversity of our society should be embraced. This includes recording the histories of all communities.
It is of vital importance that the MEC make money available for this important task. For the sake of the future, we cannot turn our back on the past.