No use marking heritage without land
SEPTEMBER 24 is celebrated each year as Heritage Day. The central discourse is our shared culture, diversity and traditions in the context of a nation that belongs to all. But can we celebrate heritage without land?
The burning land question is not a land question. It is more about symbolism, history and inequality than about land to live and farm on.
Land is our identity, it enables us to belong, to express our culture and produce bread. Land is our heritage, everything that is beneath – the mineral wealth, the seas, the animals, including the skies. Land is worth working for, fighting for, and dying for because that is the only thing that lasts for ourselves and our descendants.
Only through collective ownership of land can we truly share a collective identity, self-worth and become a truly reconciled society. There is no heritage without land. Until it is returned, our heritage will continue to be cheated into a braai day. The dangerous illusion that our heritage is to wear “traditional gear”, dance, sing and braai is absurd.
“Give back the land” has become a popular mantra on social media, but few stop to ask what it would actually mean. Most, if not all, black South Africans feel justifiably strongly about the injustice done to them by the descendants of white arrivals taking most of the land, a situation that hasn’t changed fundamentally.
But in 2017 the solution cannot be as simplistic as handing all the land to the government to dish out to black citizens.
The very nature of land ownership has changed fundamentally. Agricultural land has shifted to being a business commodity – to create wealth, jobs and food security. But this doesn’t mean some land doesn’t still have historical, sentimental value.
Tshepo Diale, Nkwe Estate