It is a shame that a high-profile event meant to honour some of the biggest struggle heroes produced by our region was allowed to be overshadowed by petty politics this week.
The Herald reported yesterday that only three leading ANC members turned up for Tuesday’s event in Port Elizabeth, at which some of the party’s greatest heroes were honoured.
The unveiling of a Heroes’ Acre wall of remembrance at Zwide cemetery was initiated by the previous ANC-led municipality, but the new DA-led local government was required to see it through since this was a municipal event.
The initial date for the event – Heritage Day, September 24 – was settled on by the ANC-led council at the time.
So, for caucus leader Bicks Ndoni to say that he and others from the ANC did not attend since they had wanted the matter “properly” discussed within the provincial structures of the ANC first seems a little petulant.
Come on now, how much more discussion was really needed?
No one, as far as we can tell, was trying to take away from the ANC that the likes of the late Govan Mbeki, Raymond Mhlaba, Florence Matomela, Sipho Hashe and Sizwe Kondile remain powerful figures in the party’s histor y.
At the same time, these leaders, who sacrificed so much in their quest for freedom, are today a part of the collective history of all South Africans.
In the interests of unity and nation-building, one should not wish to deprive anyone of the opportunity to look up to these icons and take on board the many valuable lessons to be learnt from what they went through.
Allowing people to embrace historic greats no matter which party these giants considered their political home is a key aspect of reconciliation.
We do not believe that Mayor Athol Trollip was trying to claim these heroes, or the occasion, at the expense of the ANC. “This is about our country,” he said. “We are coming here to pay respect.”
It is a great pity that the ANC chose not to see it in the same way. By making the event all about party politics, it lost an important opportunity to honour its own.
On a positive note, it is fitting that the families of these heroes were able to have an occasion to remember all they had lost – and a nation had ultimately gained – in the painful journey to democracy.