We in­her­ited more than a rain­bow…

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DO YOU re­mem­ber on sports days at school we used to sing this song: “Every­where we go-oo, peo­ple want to know, who we a-are and where we come from…”

Well, on Her­itage Day we re­flect on the ques­tions raised in this song and re­mem­ber the rich her­itage we have as peo­ple and as a coun­try.

From the gush­ing Tugela Falls in the mag­nif­i­cent Drak­ens­berg to the breath­tak­ing view of Ta­ble Moun­tain, the wilder­ness of the Kruger Na­tional Park, the Cra­dle of Mankind where some of the old­est fos­sils have been found, and the lovely sites where one can ex­pe­ri­ence the won­der of a sun­rise or sun­set, all form a part of our won­der­ful coun­try’s nat­u­ral her­itage.

It has been said count­less times that we are a rain­bow na­tion, but I know that the colours of a rain­bow do not blend, and that rain­bows are rare and dis­ap­pear quickly.

We do in­deed share a rich di­ver­sity in cul­ture and tra­di­tions, which we em­brace, and ac­knowl­edge that even with di­ver­sity we are all South Africans. How­ever, we also have a shared a her­itage which is so im­por­tant.

On Her­itage Day and ev­ery other day I never for­get the fact that I am a South African be­cause of the brave men and women who came here as in­den­tured labour­ers, and the 76% of them who opted to stay in South Africa and em­brace this coun­try as cit­i­zens.

Their ac­tions and deeds and those of sub­se­quent gen­er­a­tions is a part of my rich her­itage, and it some­times in­ter­weaves it­self with other race groups, be­cause we do not ex­ist as a group in iso­la­tion but have a blend with other races and cul­tures.

It is be­cause of this blend that I find my­self re­mem­ber­ing some im­por­tant as­pects of our unique col­lec­tive her­itage and I will share a few:

The great mys­tery of who killed Chief Al­bert Luthuli first No­bel Peace Prize win­ner in Africa, who shared a great friend­ship with my grand­fa­ther, Mani­lal Gandhi.

The ac­tions of Dr AB Xuma of the ANC, Dr Monty Naicker of the Na­tal In­dian Congress and Dr Yusuf Dadoo of the Transvaal In­dian Congress, who in 1947 had the fore­sight to see that all race groups needed to work in unity, and brought th­ese or­gan­i­sa­tions to­gether to fight dis­crim­i­na­tion. This was called the Doc­tors’ Pact.

The sac­ri­fices made by Nel­son Man­dela, Ahmed Kathrada, Robert Sobuke, Laloo Chiba, Billy Nair, MD Naidoo, Sunny Singh, Wal­ter Sisulu, Sonny Venka­trath­nam and so many oth­ers im­pris­oned on Robben Is­land.

The Trea­son Trial in which 105 Africans, 21 In­di­ans, 23 whites and seven coloured lead­ers were ar­rested and charged with trea­son.

Nat Moodley, who I grew up know­ing as Un­cle Nat but who was one of the first box­ing pro­mot­ers of colour. Be­cause of him I met one of the best box­ers of the 1970s, Tap Tap Makha­tini.

This is the coun­try where Gandhi de­vel­oped his phi­los­o­phy of Satya­graha, which he then used to free In­dia, and which was used suc­cess­fully by lead­ers in our coun­try and through­out the world.

The Con­sulate Six – Mewa Ram­gobin, Archie Gumede, MJ Naidoo, Billy Nair, Ge­orge Sew­per­sad and Paul David, who took refuge in the Bri­tish Con­sulate to pub­li­cise the fact that the Bri­tish gov­ern­ment was sup­port­ing the PW Botha regime. This brought in­ter­na­tional at­ten­tion to the sit­u­a­tion in our coun­try.

The pow­er­ful women of this coun­try, such as Fa­tima Meer, Lil­lian Ngoyi, Rahima Moosa, So­phie Wil­liams, He­len Joseph, Ela Gandhi, He­len Suz­man, Dorothy Nyembe, Amina Kachalia and Zuleikha Mayat.

Sto­ries of all th­ese peo­ple and many more who I have not the space to name here, flash through my mind when we talk of our shared her­itage and be­cause of them I am proudly South African.

Such sto­ries can be found in the 1860 Her­itage Cen­tre in Derby Street, where we tell a story of how, while re­tain­ing cul­ture and tra­di­tion, his­tory re­flects not a rain­bow but a lovely ta­pes­try of peo­ple com­ing to­gether as South Africans. Satish Dhu­pelia is a com­mu­nity ac­tivist

Satish Dhu­pelia

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