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South Africans celebrate Heritage Day on Saturday. Zulu-speaking people also refer to the day as Shaka’s day, whilst Afrikaans speakers refer to it as Braai Day.
September is Heritage Month, and South Africans reflect on the common thread that binds our rich and diverse cultures. In the years following our first democratic elections, the country and the world celebrated what Archbishop Desmond Tutu dubbed our “rainbow nation.” But the question today is whether Heritage Day and Month are still relevant considering our country’s state.
Radio Islam International discussed with Christi van der Westhuizen, a Professor at the Centre for the Advancement of Non-Racialism and Democracy at Nelson Mandela University, and Kenneth Lukhokho, Senior Project Leader at the Peacebuilding Program at the Institute for Justice and Reconciliation.
According to Christi, historically, Heritage Day was to commemorate the importance of unity and forging a new identity for South Africa post-apartheid and colonialism.
She said it has a positive dimension in building a better South Africa. However, socio-economic factors in our society interfere with our ability to connect, which is why it is crucial to address the problem of socio-economic inequality and poverty.
According to Lukhokho, the historical side of Heritage Day is slowly being lost as people see the day as an opportunity to not go to work, dress up in traditional attires and eat African cuisines.
According to Lukhokho appreciating challenges, past conflicts, and compromises made for everyone to understand each other are no longer transferred to the younger generation. This is especially true in the political sphere, where young people have a win-lose attitude instead of a win-win attitude, portrayed in the early 90s.
Lukhokho expressed the need for dialogues, especially for young people, to familiarize themselves with disagreeing while in the same space trying to curb the spread of inequality and social concerns young people face.
Lukhokho said that there needs to be space whereby not only different African cuisines and dressing up and cultural aspects of Heritage Day can be celebrated but also include the critical lessons that are our legacy.
However, he said that it does not look promising now as our top leaders are only interested in contesting each other politically rather than being united.
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By Nokwanda Dlangamandla