Our duty to re­store his­tory

CityPress - - Voices -

One thing the Winnie Madik­izela-Man­dela mourn­ing pe­riod con­firmed is our poor record for pre­serv­ing and telling our his­tory. We have learnt that the memo­ri­als that tell the story of her life are ei­ther derelict or have not got off the ground. Her birth­place, wed­ding church and place of ban­ish­ment are all in a state of ne­glect. This is de­spite mil­lions hav­ing been set aside by the gov­ern­ment for these projects.

What is worse is that it is not just the Madik­ize­la­Man­dela memo­ri­als that are in this state. Many oth­ers that mark his­tor­i­cal events or cel­e­brate ma­jor fig­ures are in dis­re­pair. It is tragic that a coun­try with such rich his­tory and which fought the most ro­man­tic rev­o­lu­tion of the past 200 years places such lit­tle value in its courage and tri­umphs.

It is not only in phys­i­cal memo­ri­als that we are lack­ing. We are ap­palling in record­ing our his­tory and in chron­i­cling the in­cred­i­ble lives of the peo­ple who led the lib­er­a­tion of our coun­try and laid the foun­da­tions of our new repub­lic. Be­sides the plethora of books about Nel­son Man­dela, there is lit­tle ma­te­rial on or by other stal­warts of the lib­er­a­tion strug­gle.

This week two other great stal­warts died. Their lives were not recorded and cel­e­brated while they lived. Former Cabi­net min­is­ter Zola Sk­weyiya and vet­eran diplo­mat Ge­orge Nene ded­i­cated their lives to serv­ing the na­tion.

From youth ac­tivism to ex­ile and gov­ern­ment ser­vice, their lives were sto­ries wait­ing to be writ­ten. Their sto­ries would have added valu­able pieces to the in­tri­cate jig­saw puz­zle of our his­tory. But our scribes and schol­ars did not take down their mem­o­ries, reflections and thoughts. Many of the age­ing gen­er­a­tion of lib­er­a­tors are dy­ing, tak­ing with them the trea­sures of their in­spi­ra­tional lives.

The deaths of these stal­warts should teach us the im­por­tance of keep­ing records and restor­ing our her­itage. The records in the hands of foun­da­tions for well-known strug­gle icons are not telling the whole story of how South Africa be­came a democ­racy in 1994. There are events that hap­pened across the coun­try and places where ar­rests and killings of strug­gle he­roes hap­pened. Those should be doc­u­mented, archived and shared for fu­ture gen­er­a­tions. For that to hap­pen it re­quires ex­ten­sive fund­ing. But it also re­quires oth­ers to ded­i­cate their time to the restora­tion of his­tory to en­sure that it stays alive – all the time.

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