Home » Waqfs and us » Reports » Heritage Report

Heritage Report

 Awqaf SA Participates in Historic SA Heritage Conferences

Zeinoul Abedien Cajee – National Coordinator Awqaf SA

Awqaf SA attended two conferences  convened  by the National Heritage Council – one in Soweto and soon thereafter in Benoni. At the Soweto Conference,  Awqaf SA was represented by 3 persons viz.  Ustz/ Ml  Ahmed Faizel Ebrahim,  Ebrahim Fakude,  &  Sr Asma Hassen.  Five persons represented Awqaf SA at the Benoni Conference viz  Zeinoul Abedien Cajee, Sr Ghadija Chopdat, Abdul Kader Choughley, Fuad Hendricks, and Abdul Latief Kunene. We tried to make the delegations as representative as possible within the constraints of numbers and logistics. The primary purpose of our attendance was to get a first hand feel of what was happening around Heritage issues in SA, network with key role players and stakeholders,  so that we, as a community do not marginalize ourselves, and we participate fully in mainstream issues.

The main purpose of the conference was to contribute towards the evolvement and drafting of a TRANSFORMATION CHARTER of our heritage landscape which is still very much Euro-British-Afrikaner centric.  The major challenge for Muslims is to support the transformation of SA Heritage to a more Afrocentric one,  and within that context  recognizing and representing all other cultures and groupings, including the Islamic Heritage.

This report  is  constituted by several mini reports and observations prepared by  the various Awqaf SA delegates to the two conferences. The views expressed are of the individuals who attended the conferences and provide insight into the direction that the Muslim Community of South Africa should be taking. Awqaf SA would like to receive comments and develop a SA Muslim Heritage Charter in which we can all agree on a way forward.

The following reports which follow are written by : (a) Fuad Hendricks; (b) Sr Ghadija Chopdat;   (c) Abdul Kader Choughley;  (d)  Ustz Ml  Ahmed Faizel Ebrahim  and (e) Sr Asma Hassen. The “I am an African” speech by President Thabo Mbeki is reproduced at the end for  further contextualization of Heritage issues.  The address  by then Deputy President Jacob Zuma at the National Heritage Council Civil Society Conference, Ubuntu Kraal, Soweto is also reproduced. (The speech by Minister of Arts and Culture, Dr Pallo Jordan,  presented at the Benoni Conference will be placed on the Awqaf SA website or circulated in due course)

(a)  REPORT BY  FUAD HENDRICKS  

Consultant and Volunteer Awqaf SA

The report includes my  own observations, a summary, and some indicators as to our way forward in our search for our own African-ness, in a country populated by different cultures, religions, tribes, races, and ideologies, which all form part of our colorful rainbow nation.

This conference was needed, although some would argue that monies spent on a conference convened for the expressed purpose to discuss our heritage and to Africanize our landscape with all its European and Afrikaner imagery, landmarks, names, and identity, the point should not be missed that our history, identity and who we really are should be visible which denote the names of our streets, our cities, our airports, bridges, highways, national symbols, and landscape at large. It is often these visible landmarks which invoke pride in us and our children and give us a sense of history, pride, and self-esteem in our African-ness.

To me the important issue was not so much the renaming of our streets, cities and so forth, but the crucial essence of our common identity as Africans. Undoubtedly many of us are still in search of our identity, and many delegates at the conference are still not clear who is an African. This debate reinforced my own sense of self-identity that I (half-Malay and half-so called coloured) was no less an African than those who pride themselves as Xhosa, Zulu, and so forth.

Yes I am a Muslim whose forebears hailed from the Archipelago of Indonesia, and whose progeny became racially mixed as they inter-married the inhabitants of their newly adopted African country and continent. But this does not dilute my African-ness in any way. “I am an African” as President Thabo Mbeki so proudly proclaimed in the speech that he delivered on the occasion of the adoption of South Africa’s constitution in May 1996.

As the debate of ‘who is an African?’ continued, I took comfort in the fact that this land is my land, and proudly so, and whoever lives in this land making it a home for themselves and their children as well as their progeny to follow, can proudly proclaimed with the fullest confidence that they are African, and no less.

So whether we are Indian, Malay, Coloured, or whatever the origins that we hailed from, we are all African in the fullest sense. Our rich cultural and religious history, adds value to our African-ness, and enables us to make our contribution from that premise to the building of our country and its people.

Those of us who especially hail from an Indian or Malay background should assert our African-ness particularly in a conference of this nature less we end up feeling left out and marginalized as being less African. An African can look like me, an Indian or even a European.

It seems as the conference seeks to rediscover its purely African-ness and African roots, some of the delegates were frantically trying to undermine and criticize other civilizations on the African soil, namely Arab, as being imperialistic on the African continent to subvert the African-ness of the continent. Unfortunately, there was not much time to delve into this debate to discuss it more fully so that a balanced perspective could be obtained by most of the delegates. Of course, there were those throughout our own Islamic history who acted in the name of Islam only to advance their own nationalism and nationalistic ambitions to the detriment of the Africans, and Muslims at large.

In this regard the word Azania evoked strong emotions and many tried to dismiss this word and concept as being Arab in origin and understood its meaning as ‘a place for slaves’ and so forth. There was not much discussion on this and others gave different meanings to the word Azania, none of which evoked much sympathy from the delegates as a possible alternative name for South Africa.

It seems that our bigger contribution would be to advance the general agenda of the conference and that is to reassert of our own African-ness. Our Islamic identity is important but we would be doing our cause a lot of harm should we subordinate the common aspirations of the delegates and others whose primary goal is to assert our common South African identity and African-ness.

We must champion the cause that ‘we are Africans’ and the richness of this diversity, which is an umbrella for our rich cultural, religious, and racial diversity. This is where we could best make our contribution to the debate in our attempt to discover our African-ness and to build our country and continent.

The following are some of the issues that we need to drive and focus on in the future to enrich the debate on the assertion of our rich diverse national heritage:

 

  • We must talk about our African-ness and assert our identity as Africans with pride and a sense of self-esteem. Yes we are Muslim. Yes we are Indian or Malay. But we are also proudly African just like any other South African. We must not let future generations of Muslims whether they are from an Indian or Malay origin feel as if they are foreigners in the land of their birth. It must be imprinted on their minds that they are Muslim but also proudly African. An African can look like an Indian or Malay, or like a Xhosa or Zulu – or like a European.
  • We must take up the issues of heritage and make our communities identify with its essence. For instance, every quarterly we should highlight the heritage issues by bringing out a Friday Khutbah pamphlet.
  • Our schools, particularly the Muslim private schools should celebrate the holidays or events celebrating or marking heritage events or occasions.
  • Awqaf should be instrumental in driving the heritage agenda in our community and should be on the radar screen of all government departments and agencies in this regard.
  • For a start an abridged version of this report and the speech of our President (see copy of speech below) should be forwarded to as many people as possible.
  •  

 

(b) REPORT BY SR GHADIJA CHOPDAT

Consultant and Volunteer Awqaf SA

 

Report on the conference towards a Transformation Charter by ~NHC National Heritage Conference

Kopanong Conference Centre East Rand

1 -2 April 2005

 

This conference was held as apart of a process that will lead to the drawing up and acceptance of a Charter which hopes to bring about the transformation in the practices on how heritage media are presented and how it will impact on people’s view about national heritage.

The house was addressed by the Minister of Arts and Culture, Dr Pallo Jordan. His address focused on the importance of heritage within the South African context and its role in developing national pride and national identity in the people of South Africa.

 

Although the resistance struggle against colonialism and Apartheid is part and parcel of our heritage, I feel a conference of this nature should look beyond a reactionary stance towards a more principled and action driven inclusive nature. Although the minister made reference to the inclusiveness, there seem to be a definite indication of a strong bias towards African political undercurrents which might be counter productive to the policy of inclusiveness. This 1 sensed through the reaction to contributions by some delegates in the breakaway group that I attended.

I found the address by the Chairman of the Task team, Prof Nkondo and his subsequent attempts to bring delegates back to the purpose of the conference to be very focused and structured.

National Heritage Council members and its purpose were introduced to the house by the Chairperson of the council Ms. Callinicos. The objectives of the indaba were outlines by Prof .M. Nkondo, the chairman of the task team who will subsequently draw up the Transformational Charter.

Papers on the various heritage media which were delivered were focused, informative and well presented. The house was also given an insight into the procedures the different sectors follow when executing their respective tasks. This helped eliminate the misconception that might exist that due consideration is not given to the sensitive nature of heritage issues.

Here I specifically refer to the place name changing which have occurred over the last few years. The presentation by Mr. H. Buthelezi, head of South African Heritage Resource Agency (SAHRA), gave us an indication where some definite input need to be given by minority groups and Muslims per say, in order to provide information about our own heritage symbols/sites in terms of its contributions to heritage of the country.

The plenary session on the first day raised some important points of general nature but some delegates impressed the need to remain focused on the conference objectives in order to arrive at practical ways as how to drive the transformation process. This I appreciated since it indicated that practitioners in the public sector seem more intend to deliver on objectives set.

 

The program director gave a well tabled summary of the deliberations of day on the second day of the conference which again indicated that the conveners of the indaba was focused and were clear on the processes which they designed for the exercise. Both the CEO of the NHC and Chairman of the task team again reiterated these objectives. It is unfortunate that the some of the issues raised by the house did not keep to the indicators provided by the program director to focus the attention on Transformation and not on heritage issues in general.

 

I attended the breakaway discussion group on IKS and Languages and I found the discussion swayed in the same direction as in the main plenary session. I include a feedback presentation on this discussion..

Issues arise from the conference deliberations that affect Muslims and minority faith-based groups.

 

1. The need to establish a national heritage segment amongst Muslim in order to make inroads and get representation on the various national heritage segments.

2. The need to educate and make Muslims aware of the importance of their own heritage as well as how their heritage contributes to the national heritage of the country.

3. The need for Awqaf to clarify its own position in term of its role to specific courses,

4. The way that we present our heritage in a way that will allow for inclusiveness and constructive participation..

5.  Get clarity on the issue of integration versus self preservation.

 

(c) REPORT BY ABDUL KADER CHOUGHLEY –

Consultant and Volunteer Awqaf SA

 

The formulation of the Charter did have some ‘rough edges’ as was evident from the various pages presented:

·        The ‘African Heritage’ in context was envisaged to generate a consensus on the diverse components that embody our proud ‘African-ness’.  However, there were subtle attempts to accentuate an Afrocentric approach to our national heritage.  The confluence of cultures over the centuries with their political appendices was challenged; even the Arab/Muslim contribution was perceived in context of colonisation.

·        These perceptions underscore the urgency of Muslim participation in the various sectors which constitute the Heritage council. 

·        The passivity of Muslim involvement needs to be addressed.

·        Their patronizing approach must be converted into purpose driven goals that will sustain a viable Muslim presence.  Their participatory role is vital.

·        The transformation of our National Heritage is inevitable; however Muslims should complement their Heritage as an inclusive segment rather than presenting a parallel dimension of their culture.  The binary representations of our dynamic Muslim heritage have negative implications for the Ummah’s future 

·        The challenges are formidable as are the opportunities.  Therefore pragmatism tempered with an appropriate vision will ensure our rightful place in the African renaissance.

I believe Awqaf can lead the way.

(d) REPORT BY USTADH/ ML AHMED FAZEL EBRAHIM

Shari’ah Consultant and Volunteer Awqaf SA

12 March, 2005   

Conference held in Soweto – Ubuntu Kraal Conference Centre

 

Attended by: Ustadh, Ahmed Fazel Ebrahim  (was there till 1- 45p.m.)

On behalf of : Awqaf S.A.

 

Attended by: Brother Ebrahim Fakude

On behalf of : Awqaf S.A.

 

Attended by: Sister Asma Hasan

On behalf of : Awqaf S.A.

 

International Organizations playing a role in the issues relative to heritage

 

  1. World Heritage Convention – Europe

 

Local Organizations playing a role in the issues relative to heritage

  1. Transvaal Museum

 

  1. National Heritage council (NHC) (Established 2004), Dysart House, 6 Sherbourne Road, Parktown, South Africa 2193 P.O. Box X16, Parkview, South Africa, 2122, Tel: 011-482-9583, Fax 011-482-8789 www.nhc.org.za

Stakeholders

·        Libraries

·        Tourism Industry

·        Parks

·        Traditional Leaders

·        Metros, District Municipalities

·        IKS Institutions / experts

·        Museums

·        Cultural Groups

·        Archives

·        Heritage Practitioners

·        Research and Academic

·        National & Provincial Government DAC, DEAT, Agic

  1. National Monument Council

 

  1. S.A.M.A. South African Museum Association

 

It has 400 members including 100 institutions

  1. Heritage Kwazulu Natal.     Director Barry Marshall P.O.Box 523, Ulundi, 3838, Tel: 035-870- 2050/1/2    fax 035-870-2054 [email protected]

 

Some contact addresses

 

1.  Ethekwini Municipality: Heritage Department, Parks, Recreation & Culture Unit

Acting Director: Rooksana Omar – eThekwini Heritage

c/o Old Court House Museum, Aliwal Street, Durban, 4001

 

Tel: (031) 311 -2222

FAx: (031) 311- 2224

Email [email protected]  

Heritage Issues to consider in the South African context

  1. World Heritage List
  2. The Indigenous Africans want an introduction to African or non-European facets to heritage sites.
  3. Acts of Parliament relative to heritage – National Heritage council Act of 1999 that was assented to on 14 April 1999 and officially proclaimed on 26 February 2004.
  4. White Paper  on Arts, Culture, Science and technology
  5. On-going regulatory reviews
  6. Library and National archives which preserve records
  7. Advice to Minister of Arts and Culture

Heritage Issues for Muslims to consider

  1. We need to study the field of heritage, its implications and purposes. This needs contextualization to historical & contemporary Muslim societies or  within our minority status in non-Muslim countries.
  2. In South Africa, Muslims need to identify heritage sites that identify with the inception of the Muslim community.
  3. Association with International Islamic Museums & Art academies in order to highlight Islamic culture & heritage issues pertinent to the Islamic world and Muslims.
  4. Need for a section in all National Museums to highlight and display Islamic art, Islamic literature, Models of Islamic religious symbols like Masjids, the Kabah and the masjid of Madina.
  5. Introduction of South African Islamic History into Madrassahs or Islamic schools .
  6. Need for South African Indian and other Muslims to respect the cultural, linguistic and indigenous identities and religions of indigenous South African African communities whose rights and sentiments have been violated by the colonizing forces and the apartheid State. The history of people, and respect and acknowledgement of its existence is the only factor that would allow a dignified approach in the paradigm of our association to them.
  7. Although much of the issues relative to heritage in South Africa may not be appreciated by Muslims since Islam binds us to religious forms of heritage that would predominantly exist in the Middle East, yet other facets that deal with the scientific preservation of knowledge should not be considered as a component external to the entire body of knowledge that Islam advocates.
  8. Since Islam is not an exclusivist institution, it becomes imperative to respect the historical roots of local Africans who enter the fold of Islam
  9. The Muslim business sector can manufacture and market Islamic arts and crafts at the various national and international exhibitions.

International Art Museums

  1. Africa Art museum. Ethiopia

Artist Lemma Guya (General Manager)

09-400392

Cell: 09-24-95- 24                                               off: 33 05 92

Residence: 251-1-33 81 98                  404-226-2972

) Postal : 311 Debre Zeit-Ethiopia

www.geocities.com/lemmasite

This artist had made a highly marvelous painting of the Deputy President Jacob Zuma on the top (hair part) of a goat skin that was framed in a square through the use of string. He invited artists from South Africa to come to his place to learn this art which can be achieved in 3 months.

Muslim artists can learn the craft and do Islamic paintings on such skin.

Other benefits of the conference

  1. We spoke to a Christian African sister (she is an engineer) from Port Saint Johns whose husband and kids are Muslims (they attend the school at Mia’s Farm – Waterfall Islamic Institute). She accepted Islam (at the heritage conference at Ubuntu Kraal* ed). Her husband accepted Islam in Libya.

Forthcoming exhibition venues

24 to 26 May 2005 in Bloemfontein at The President Hotel R4000-00 Commercial Exhibitors package 15 stands (2m x 3m) are available.

 

Contact Kathy Gie 046 624 – 3087 [email protected]

Amanda Mould 046 -624- 3087 [email protected]

REPORT BY ASMA HASSEN

Social Policy Advisor and Volunteer: AWQAF SA

Report on National Heritage Conference

Ubuntu Kraal, Soweto

12 March 2005

 

Conference was well-attended, about 250 people, from many parts of the country, although participation could have been better. Except for Awqaf delegates and one speaker, Ms Rookshana Omar, there were no other Muslims that I encountered. The venue was excellent and I would propose it for any future event. Of course, there is always room for improvement, e.g. they did not cater for halal.

Conference was addressed by Deputy President Jacob Zuma and further addressed by number of key speakers from various relevant sectors.

Issues of language, culture and heritage were raised. Problems in disseminating the programmes of the NHC and sister organizations like PAN SA Languages Board were highlighted. There was a call for such information to be conveyed to grassroots communities.

Participants broke away into smaller groups to discuss key programmes of the NHC:

  • Libraries
  • Museums
  • Archives
  • Geographical names
  • Language
  • Symbols and heraldry
  • Heritage sites
  • Indigenous Knowledge Systems

 

I attended the language discussion group, where we stressed the importance of education in the promotion and protection of languages. Parental involvement was also emphasized as was the need for voluntarism and community participation. I raised the example of how the Muslim community developed madressas of its own accord to promote it educational system, as it did not receive any state support (or very little state support).

Generally the overall discussion during the conference emphasized coordination (of different government policies and programmes) and communication (in the appropriate languages and media and by appropriate spokespeople) with and to grassroots communities.

With regard to libraries, museums and archives, concern was raised that only school learners are frequenting these centres for homework purposes. The wider community does not consider that it, too, can benefit from these centres. Part of the transformation agenda of these centres, should be to make them more appealing and accessible to the community, esp. women, youth, people with disabilities and the aged; for example, by offering additional services like employment and entrepreneurship information, government services, etc. A proposal was made that ‘one- stop shops’ be established that combine library, museum and archive facilities for a local area. This would be a more effective utilization of resources

(This is currently being done in the form of Multi Purpose Community Centres (MPCC’s) under the auspices of the Department of Public Service and Administration, although again implementation is slow).

Muslim organisations like AWQAF can play a valuable role in the development of these centres, in conjunction with government, private sector and the community.

With regard to Muslim/Islamic heritage in South Africa and Africa, it is imperative that Muslim organizations interact with all stakeholders and participate in the various programmes at local, provincial, national and regional levels. This will be the only way in which we will be able to ensure that the heritage sector reflects the contribution Islam and Muslims have made. But we should be conscious not to promote a uni-linear view. The Muslim contribution should be contextualised within the broader struggles and history.

Within the Muslim community itself, we should promote the Muslim/Islamic heritage in South Africa and Africa more robustly through the production of educational materials for use not only in madressas but also disseminated through pamphlets, the various media and, very importantly, Muslim women’s magazines, the potential of which is often underestimated. The development of traveling/permanent exhibitions on heritage should be investigated and supported.

Finally, another observation from the conference, and from a perusal of the Board of the National Heritage Council, the Muslim community is not sufficiently represented on the boards of some of the key public institutions. The various Muslim organizations should collaborate and coordinate their efforts to ensure that appropriate Muslims are nominated to serve on the boards of such institutions. Muslims can play a significant role in the transformation of these organizations and, by so doing, influence public policy positively. The newspapers often feature calls for nominations to these boards. It is time we avail ourselves of this opportunity.

I AM AN AFRICAN

President Thabo Mbeki

Statement on behalf of the African National Congress on the occasion of the adoption by the Constitutional Assembly of The Republic of South Africa Constitution Bill 1996, Cape Town, 8 May 1996

 

ON AN OCCASION such as this we should, perhaps, start from the beginning. So let me begin.

I am an African.

I owe my being to the hills and the valleys, the mountains and the glades, the rivers, the deserts, the trees, the flowers, the seas and the ever-­changing seasons that define the face of our native land.

My body has frozen in our frosts and in our latter-day snows. It has thawed in the warmth of our sunshine and melted in the heat of the mid­day sun.

The crack and the rumble of the summer thunders, lashed by startling lightning, have been causes both of trembling and of hope.

The fragrances of nature have been as pleasant to us as the sight of the wild blooms of the citizens of the veld.

The dramatic shapes of the Drakensberg, the soil-coloured waters of the Lekoa, iGqili noThukela, and the sands of the Kgalagadi have all been panels of the set on the natural stage on which we act out the foolish deeds of the theatre of our day.

At times, and in fear, I have wondered whether I should concede equal citizenship of our country to the leopard and the lion, the elephant and the springbok, the hyena, the black mamba and the pestilential mosquito.

A human presence among all these, a feature on the face of our native land thus defined, I know that none dare challenge me when I say: I am an African!

I owe my being to the Khoi and the San whose desolate souls haunt the great expanses of the beautiful Cape – they who fell victim to the most merciless genocide our native land has ever seen, they who were the first to lose their lives in the struggle to defend our freedom and independence and they who, as a people, perished in the result.

Today, as a country, we keep an audible silence about these ancestors of the generations that live, fearful to admit the horror of a former deed. seeking to obliterate from our memories a cruel occurrence which, in its remembering, should teach us not and never to be inhuman again.

I am formed of the migrants who left Europe to find a new home on our native land. Whatever their own actions, they remain still part of me. In my veins courses the blood of the Malay slaves who came from the East. Their proud dignity informs my bearing. Their culture is part of my essence. The stripes they bore on their bodies from the lash of the slave­ master are a reminder embossed on my consciousness of what should not be done.

I am the grandchild of the warrior men and women that Hintsa and Sekhukhune led, the patriots that Cetshwayo and Mphephu took to battle, the soldiers Moshoeshoe and Ngungunyane taught never to dishonour the cause of freedom.

My mind and my knowledge of myself is formed by the victories that are the jewels in our African crown, the victories we earned from Isandhlwana to Khartoum, as Ethiopians and as the Ashanti of Ghana, as the Berbers of the desert.

I am the grandchild who lays fresh flowers on the Boer graves at St Helena and the Bahamas, who sees in the mind’s eye and suffers the suf­fering of a simple peasant folk: death, concentration camps, destroyed homesteads, a dream in ruins.

I am the child of Nongqause. I am he who made it possible to trade in the world markets in diamonds, in gold, in the same food for which my, stomach yearns.

I come of those who were transported from India and China, whose being resided in the fact solely that they were able to provide physical labour, who taught me that we could both be at home and be foreign, who taught me that human existence itself demanded that freedom was a necessary condition for that human existence.

Being part of all these people, and in the knowledge that none dare contest that assertion, I shall claim that I am an African!

 

I have seen our country torn asunder as these, all of whom are my people, engaged one another in a titanic battle, the one to redress a wrong that had been caused by one to another, and the other to defend the indefensible.

I have seen what happens when one person has superiority of force over another, when the stronger appropriate to themselves the prerog­ative even to annul the injunction that God created all men and women in His image.

I know what it signifies when race and colour are used to determine who is human and who subhuman.

I have seen the destruction of all sense of self-esteem, the consequent striving to be what one is not, simply to acquire some of the benefits which those who had imposed themselves as masters had ensured that they enjoy.

I have experience of the situation in which race and colour is used to enrich some and impoverish the rest.

I have seen the corruption of minds and souls as a result of the pursuit of an ignoble effort to perpetrate a veritable crime against humanity.

I have seen concrete expression of the denial of the dignity of a human being emanating from the conscious, systemic and systematic oppressive and repressive activities of other human beings.

There the victims parade with no mask to hide the brutish reality – the beggars, the prostitutes, the street children, those who seek solace in substance abuse, those who have to steal to assuage hunger, those who have to lose their sanity because to be sane is to invite pain.

Perhaps the worst among these who are my people are those who have learnt to kill for a wage. To these the extent of death is directly propor­tional to their personal welfare.

And so, like pawns in the service of demented souls, they kill in fur­therance of the political violence in KwaZulu-Natal. They murder the innocent in the taxi wars. They kill slowly or quickly in order to make profits from the illegal trade in narcotics. They are available for hire when husband wants to murder wife and wife, husband.

Among us prowl the products of our immoral and amoral past – killers who have no sense of the worth of human life; rapists who have absolute disdain for the women of our country; animals who would seek to benefit from the vulnerability of the children, the disabled and the old; the rapacious who brook no obstacle in their quest for self-enrichment.

 

All this I know and know to be true because I am an African! Because of that, I am also able to state this fundamental truth: that 1 am born of a people who are heroes and heroines.

I am born of a people who would not tolerate oppression.

I am of a nation that would not allow that fear of death, torture, impris­onment, exile or persecution should result in the perpetuation of injustice. The great masses who are our mother and father will not permit that the behaviour of the few results in the description of our country and people as barbaric. Patient because history is on their side, these masses do not despair because today the weather is bad. Nor do they turn tri­umphant when, tomorrow, the sun shines. Whatever the circumstances they have lived through – and because of that experience – they are deter­mined to define for themselves         who they are and who they should be.

We are assembled here today to mark their victory in acquiring and exercising their right to formulate their own definition of what it means to be African.

The Constitution whose adoption we celebrate constitutes an unequi­vocal statement that we refuse to accept that our African-ness shall be defined by our race, colour, gender or historical origins.

It is a firm assertion made by ourselves that South Africa belongs to all who live in it, black and white.

It gives concrete expression to the sentiment we share as Africans, and will defend to the death, that the people shall govern.

It recognises the fact that the dignity of the individual is both an objec­tive which society must pursue, and is a goal which cannot be separated from the material wellbeing of that individual.

It seeks to create the situation in which all our people shall be free from fear, including the fear of the oppression of one national group by another, the fear of the disempowerment of one social echelon by anoth­er, the fear of the use of state power to deny anybody their fundamental human rights, and the fear of tyranny.

It aims to open the doors so that those who were disadvantaged can assume their place in society as equals with their fellow human beings without regard to colour, race, gender, age or geographic dispersal.

It provides the opportunity to enable each one and all to state their views, promote them, strive for their implementation in the process of governance without fear that a contrary view will be met with repression.

 

It creates a law-governed society which shall be inimical to arbitrary rule.

It enables the resolution of conflicts by peaceful means rather than resort to force.

It rejoices in the diversity of our people and creates the space for all of us voluntarily to define ourselves as one people.

As an African, this is an achievement of which I am proud, proud without reservation and proud without any feeling of conceit.

Our sense of elevation at this moment also derives from the fact that this magnificent product is the unique creation of African hands and African minds. But it also constitutes a tribute to our loss of vanity that we could, despite the temptation to treat ourselves as an exceptional frag­ment of humanity, draw on the accumulated experience and wisdom of all humankind to define for ourselves what we want to be.

Together with the best in the world, we too are prone to pettiness, petulance, selfishness and short-sightedness. But it seems to have hap­pened that we looked at ourselves and said the time had come that we made a superhuman effort to be other than human, to respond to the call to create for ourselves a glorious future, to remind ourselves of the Latin saying: Gloria est consequenda – Glory must be sought after!

Today it feels good to be an African.

It feels good that I can stand here as a South African and as a foot sol­dier of a titanic African army, the African National Congress, to say to all the parties represented here, to the millions who made an input into the processes we are concluding, to our outstanding compatriots who have presided over the birth of our founding document, to the negotiators who pitted their wits one against the other, to the stars who shone unseen as the management and administration of the Constitutional Assembly, the advisers, experts and publicists, to the mass communication media, to our friends across the globe: Congratulations and well done!

I am an African.

I am born of the peoples of the continent of Africa.

The pain of the violent conflict that the peoples of Liberia, Somalia, the Sudan. Burundi and Algeria experience is a pain I also bear.

The dismal shame of poverty, suffering and human degradation of my continent is a blight that we share.

The blight on our happiness that derives from this and from our drift to the periphery of the ordering of human affairs leaves us in a persistent shadow of despair.

This is a savage road to which nobody should be condemned.

This thing that we have done today, in this small corner of a great continent that has contributed so decisively to the evolution of humanity, says that Africa reaffirms that she is continuing her rise from the ashes._

Whatever the setbacks of the moment, nothing can stop us now! Whatever the difficulties, Africa shall be at peace!

However improbable it may sound to the sceptics, Africa will prosper! Whoever we may be, whatever our immediate interest, however much we carry baggage from our past, however much we have been caught by the fashion of cynicism and loss of faith in the capacity of the people., let us say today: Nothing can stop us now!

Address by Deputy President Jacob Zuma at the National Heritage Council Civil Society Conference, Ubuntu Kraal, Soweto

12 March 2005

The Chairperson and CEO of the National Heritage Council,
Members of the National Heritage Council,
Our distinguished guests from the World Heritage Committee,
Traditional Leaders,
Organs of civil society,
Distinguished participants,

On 27 April 1994, our country became a non-racial, non-sexist democracy and in 1996 our Constitution declared that South Africa belongs to all who live in it, united in their diversity.

As a result of the historic Convention for a Democratic South Africa (CODESA) that gave birth to the 1994 national general elections and the adoption of our democratic Constitution in 1996, a new society and nation was born, and out of the divisions of apartheid, we had to build a nation with a common vision, mission and a heritage that was, although diverse, rich and representative of the greater South African society.

Building a common heritage was never going to be an easy task. We were well aware of the challenges in this respect. But we also knew we had a responsibility to create and develop the understanding and appreciation of the culture and history of all the people of our country.

Most importantly, we had to introduce the history and experiences of the black majority into the archives and heritage architecture of our country. We had to reverse the legacy of apartheid which had rendered black people almost non-existent in the cultural institutions and symbols of our country. Where they were included, it was usually in negative terms or they were presented through the eyes of others.

Your conference therefore is a critical one as it makes us take stock of our approach to our national heritage, and allows interaction between government and civil society, to share views on this matter.

The National Heritage Council is only one year old, but we are pleased that the management and board have seen it fit to undertake a task of this magnitude. With South Africa hosting the 29th Session of the World Heritage Committee in July this year in Durban, it will be quite appropriate for this conference to start reflecting on some of the issues that will be discussed by the Committee.

These issues include the role of heritage sites in the development, production and transformation of identities, issues of community participation in the development of heritage, the issue of representation in the heritage sector, natural and cultural heritage landscape, archaeology and heritage.

The promotion and preservation of the heritage of our country needs to move from the margins to the mainstream. When you travel in many countries in the world, you are struck by the monuments, symbols and artefacts which tell the history and story of the peoples of that particular country.

In 1994, when the democratic government came into power, it faced the mammoth task of undoing the legacy of many decades.

We prioritised the transformation of the state machinery for government to be able to deliver basic social services. We also had to concentrate on many aspects of transformation and to build a solid foundation for a democracy that respected the rights of its citizens, and that was well-poised to improve the quality of life of all.

There should be no doubt as to our commitment to the development and transformation of this country’s heritage, as it forms part of our broader plan of building a new nation that is in touch with its history and legacy.

We now have an opportunity to work together in earnest to preserve, promote and develop our national heritage and build a national identity, based on our rich diversity and history.

We still have a number of challenges in the heritage sector, as heritage in our country is still perceived as a preserve of a few. We face the challenge of developing an Afrocentric approach to our heritage preservation and promotion.

For example, we need to ask ourselves what kind of exhibitions we would like to see in our museums, who has access to these museums and how we can promote access by the larger population. We also need to look at how we diversify content in our museums. We also need to look at the decentralisation and diversification of our heritage institutions. They should not be based in the urban centres of our country only.

Our country has gone through a painful history of slavery, colonialism and apartheid. This needs to be reflected in our cultural institutions. We have to take full advantage of the living heritage that we have in the form of our icons who have stories to tell, as well as ordinary people who participated in various campaigns and periods in our history.

Our country has also had a colourful social history, the life in Sophiatown, Mkhumbane, District Six and many other townships and villages. These experiences have to be preserved and documented for future generations.

The history of gold and other aspects of our economic history and the impact this has had on the lives of millions of people in South Africa and the rest of Southern Africa also provide another subject for the heritage sector. We need our archives to reflect the stories and experiences of the miners told by the miners themselves and not the owners of the mines.

What I am emphasising ladies and gentlemen is that the socio-cultural aspects of South African life need to be documented properly in many forms, be it museums, monuments, videos or other archives and many other aspects.

We also have our indigenous knowledge systems which also need to be preserved, developed and protected as a national treasure.

The White Paper on Arts and Culture sets the tone on what transformation needs to address. It succinctly mentions equity, access and redress. We just need to find ways of working together to correct the wrongs of the past, and undertake this nation building task.

Ladies and gentlemen, you would be aware of the potential of heritage as part of our tourism industry. There is a growing interest in cultural tourism in our country, leading to the proliferation of cultural villages.

While we welcome this, we need to ensure that these do not trivialise our culture and heritage but serve to enhance, preserve and promote it. I hope that you will be able to discuss the contribution of heritage to our economic development, balancing tourism benefits with the danger of over-commercialisation of heritage.

I am pleased that organs of the civil society will make an input into Africa position on heritage on the 16th of March, when representatives of the African heritage sector meet in Cape Town to refine and reinforce their position and input in the world Heritage Committee meeting.

There is a lot we can learn from African countries, as our brothers and sisters have been free longer than we have been, and many have dealt with the issue of heritage development and promotion.

It is important that African countries develop a common approach to heritage promotion and protection, as part of the campaign for the renewal of the African continent. We need to review the manner in which we were described and presented to the world by those who had power over us.

As you work on this important aspect of our heritage remember the important factor that a history of a people is a very long journey with ups and downs that requires to be recorded, preserved and promoted.

I wish you well with your deliberations at this conference and all other preparatory efforts, leading to the World Heritage Committee meeting in July. I look forward to regular interactions with the sector, as heritage is a subject that is very close to my heart. I will therefore be keen to see your resolutions and how you wish to take this important matter forward.

Issued by: The Presidency
12 March 2005
Source: SAPA