SPEECH NOTES: Removal of apartheid symbol of cultural dominance such as statues across the province

Issued by Nomvano Zibonda, MPL
Shadow MEC for Sport, Recreation, Art and Culture

The following speech was delivered by Nomvano Zibonda, MPL in response to a motion tabled by EFF MPL, Mr Y. Tetyana, in the Eastern Cape Provincial Legislature, on 23 July 2020

Honourable Speaker, members and staff ndiyabulisa ngale mvakwemini. This debate takes place at the beginning of heritage month. A month set aside to celebrate our heritage. Heritage is the full range of our inherited traditions, monuments, objects, and culture. Most important, it is the range of contemporary activities, meanings, and behaviours that we draw from them.

Heritage includes, but is much more than, conserving, unearthing, demonstrating, or restoring a collection of old things. It is both tangible and intangible, in the sense that ideas and memories-of songs, recipes, language, dances, and many other elements of who we are and how we identify ourselves-are as important as historical buildings and archaeological sites.

Heritage is, or should be, the subject of active public reflection, debate, and discussion. What is worth saving? What can we, or should we, forget? What memories can we enjoy, regret, or learn from? Who owns “The Past” and who is entitled to speak for past generations? Active public discussion about material and intangible heritage of individuals, groups, communities, and nations is a valuable facet of public life in our multicultural world.

Heritage is a contemporary activity with far-reaching effects. It can be an element of far-sighted urban and regional planning. It can be the platform for political recognition, a medium for intercultural dialogue, a means of ethical reflection, and the potential basis for local economic development. It is simultaneously local and particular, global and shared.

Heritage is an essential part of the present we live in, and of the future we will build.

Honourable Speaker this debate is very important, particularly in the context of what I have said above.
The DA respects and upholds the Constitution of the RSA, which says in its preamble. ‘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.’

It is under these premises that we support resolution two of this motion. We propose an amendment to remove resolution one.

Ours is a nation of resilience, a nation that has a deep and tragic history that can never be erased nor forgotten by its people and the world. Apartheid was an inhuman system that was legislated, which upheld segregationist policies against the majority of people in our nation; it was not only a political but also a social system that enforced minority rule.

The heritage of each South African is the heritage of the whole country. We should never attempt to erase history from our history books, as it teaches us of where we come from, who we are as a people and to never repeat the mistakes of the past. To simply remove statues without a proper plan on how we sensitise and educate our people would be incorrect. This is why it is crucial to have functional libraries that are well capacitated with resources such as books, access to the internet, infrastructure and staff members with programmes that are aimed at educating our communities.

Libraries are an important resource for promoting a culture of reading, making information available on South Africa’s history, heritage and cultures and preserving our cultural heritage.

However, ZK Abdelnour- ‘Never erase your past. It shapes who you are today and will help you to be the person you’ll be tomorrow’. As painful as apartheid was to the majority of South Africans, we can’t risk losing the lessons it taught us, and the lessons it will continue to teach our generations to come. If our generations are not taught about apartheid, we risk a new form of apartheid emerging in the future.

When we went to Zanzibar last year we visited a place where the history of slave trade in that area is displayed, and Tanzanians are able to visit and teach their younger generations, it was also an interesting history lesson to us as old as we are.

It is also a tourist attraction and creates jobs in that vicinity. Why can’t we do the same? For example, Hon. Julius Malema once suggested that Nkandla should be turned into a Corruption museum, I think that is a good example of how unfortunate events can be turned into something useful, and offer valuable lessons.

If we take these statues and form this kind of educational sites and tourist attractions, jobs can be created. A Consultative process can be embarked upon to do this. This approach builds bridges instead of driving wedges.

Instead of removing statues which are symbols, we can fight to overcome the painful realities that the majority of South Africans live in as a result of apartheid, namely – Inequality, poverty and unemployment.

Two-thirds of South Africans youth, the vast majority of them black, are unemployed. We need to fight for meaningful economic reforms that benefit the most vulnerable. Education- while educational prospects have improved for black South Africans, many rural areas are still impoverished, and funds are often unavailable for schooling beyond grade 12.

The Bantu Education system, which provided only basic education for black South Africans during apartheid, has been replaced by the system that is notionally equal, but inherently unequal. The conditions that the children in some rural areas are subjected to are appalling. The gap between the rich and the poor is forever increasing while the ANC government keeps promising millions of jobs while delivering millions of job losses. How is the removal of statues going to change the lives of the poor?

Hon Speaker the DA supports the call for the democratic government to honour our struggle heroes who fought against oppression as they are representative of our common identity as Africans. Heroines such as Helen Suzman, Molly Blackburn, OR Tambo, Nelson Mandela, Steve Biko, Robert Sobukwe and many others.

The DA supports the recommendation of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission to use the naming of geographical features as a form of symbolic reparation to address South Africa’s divided past. The names of places and streets in towns and cities should reflect the histories and heroes of all its residents. Names and symbols should not become a terrain of revenge or defensiveness, but must acknowledge our discriminatory and unjust past, whilst genuinely seeking to develop inclusive spaces, where all feel welcome.

The success of nation-building relies on genuine and consistent effort, not on lip service. Marcus Garvey-‘You must not mistake lip-service and noise for bravery and service.’

In conclusion Speaker, The DA supports the second resolution and proposes an amendment to delete the first resolution.

Thank you.