AN­OTHER VOICE mur­ray swart A city’s tar­nished legacy

Diamond Fields Advertiser - - OPINION -

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.

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