ANOTHER VOICE murray swart A city’s tarnished legacy
HERITAGE is defined as property that is or may be inherited, including valued objects and qualities such as historic buildings, and cultural traditions that have been passed down from previous generations.
For South Africans, September has been set aside for us to celebrate and commemorate these objects of value and qualities, passed down from generation to generation, as we acknowledge the contribution made by our forefathers who created the circumstances we enjoy today.
It is in the month of September that we are reminded of the selfless sacrifice made by so many unsung heroes to ensure the freedom, liberty and prosperity we so often take for granted.
Our current state of affairs is the byproduct of our collective past and while there is plenty that we can be proud of, it is the difficult and unpleasant that tends to build the most character.
Without acknowledging where we come from, it is extremely difficult to determine where we are going, as those who forget the past are – as the saying goes – destined to repeat it.
In a country with such a tumultuous history, a good understanding of our heritage is a tremendous advantage when it comes to making informed decisions as cognisance of yesterday is the context of today.
On Wednesday, I found myself sitting on the steps of the Kimberley Magistrate’s Court as members of the SAPS and hundreds of artisanal miners stood toe-to-toe, waiting to see who would make the first move.
In the building behind me, criminals, mostly undocumented foreign nationals and drug dealers, were fighting for their freedom.
In front of me, heavily armed riot police were ready for action at the first indication of violence, while the zama zamas eagerly awaited the outcome of their leaders’ bail application.
Following a week of violence that saw the miners fired upon with rubber bullets and Ekapa security guards hospitalised for the injuries they sustained in the conflict, Lucky Seekoei and Tebogo Taku were released from custody, much to the joy of their colleagues who were calling for blood or justice.
This stand-off ended without incident when the pair were released, but a different ruling may well have resulted in tragedy.
Sitting on those steps, with the zamas to my left and the cops to my right, the stench of urine from the countless broken seals of Squeeza’s patrons, as pungent as mustard gas, tensions between the two groups mounted.
It was then that I realised that I was witnessing the destructive impact that our inheritance has had.
I was watching our people prepare to die and kill for those valued objects, qualities and cultural traditions, passed down from generation to generation, that we are constantly encouraged to hold in high regard. I was witnessing the harmful side-effects of heritage at work.
Diamonds are an integral part of our heritage. De Beers has convinced us that they are forever, but what this clever bit of marketing doesn’t address is the immeasurable suffering, greed, misery and pain that these stones have caused and will continue to cause.
This giant of the mining industry has done such an effective job of indoctrinating their consumers that they have us convinced that we are obliged to drop a fortune on a useless rock as a token of our love and appreciation for that special someone, when the truth is that these gems generate more hatred, prejudice and suffering than anything else.
Like it or not, these stones and the industry surrounding them are a significant part of our heritage but looking at what is happening in Kimberley at the moment, their legacy is anything but positive.