SOUTH Africa is in danger of forgetting the struggles of those who came before.
This is according to National Heritage Council chief executive Advocate Sonwabile Mancotywa, who was speaking at a Uitenhage Massacre memorial lecture yesterday.
The lecture, called “Twenty years of democracy and the 1985 Langa Massacre: What do these mean for us today?”, was held at the Babs Madlakane Community Hall in Uitenhage.
The lecture, which started almost two hours late, was directed by councillor Fikile Desi and attended by about 100 Uitenhage residents who sang struggle songs and danced throughout the proceedings.
Mancotywa said the youth in particular were removed from the sacrifices of past activists.
“If young people forget history, then that is going to be a problem. We must not forget where we come from.
“As the years pass, so generations of youth move further and further away from the painful events like the Langa massacre.
“These events cease to have meaning for them and no longer serve as a source of inspiration.”
He reflected on the building and rebuilding of memorials, and their meaning. “Memorials and statues are put up for a number of different reasons. When the comrades put up the memorial in KwaNobuhle in 1987, they were sending a very clear message to the apartheid regime. The memorial was an important part of resistance and memory – a focal and rallying point for mobilising against an evil system.
“When the vandalised memorial was rededicated in 1994, it was both a defiant gesture of remembrance and an acknowledgement that, as the country prepared to go to the polls for the first time, the sacrifices of those who came before had not been forgotten nor had they been in vain.”
Mancotywa said when the memorial was upgraded in 2000, it was recognition by the provincial government and municipality of the importance of the event in promoting reconciliation and redressing imbalances in the portrayal of history.
“It was also in line with calls made in the Truth and Reconciliation Commission for memorials to be put up in memory of those who made the supreme sacrifice. It was part of the healing process of our nation.”
He said there was a difference between history and heritage. “What becomes heritage is what we can celebrate and are passionate about.”
The Eastern Cape-born Mancotywa said South Africa had achieved a lot since 1994, and that needed to be celebrated. – Thulani Gqirana