Reconciling history and roots
Mpondo seek to have historical battle zones declared world heritage sites
The National Heritage Council wants the Mpondo landscape, which has a rich history of colonial resistance and revolt, to receive international recognition.
The council is in the process of applying to the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (Unesco) to have eight sites where battles and protests of resistance between the Mpondo tribe and authorities took place, to be declared world heritage sites.
These include, sites in Mbizana and Lusik- isiki and the Ingquza Massacre site. The Mpondo Revolt took place between 1950 to 1962.
The council’s chief executive officer Sonwabile Mancotywa said the initiative was part of decolonising the history of the area as its narrative was told in a distorted way.
“There are unsung heroes there who were never mentioned from areas like Port St John’s.
“This revolt also came to be known as iKhongo, named after the liberation of Congo [DRC]. These people were inspired by [slain DRC politician Patrice] Lumumba, hence you will find songs there talking about Congo. That is why the UN recognised the Ingquza rebellion,” he said.
OR Tambo District Municipality mayor Nomakhosazana Meth welcomed the move.
“Countries grow their economies and tourism because they are able to tell their own stories.
“Here in OR Tambo we still have a weakness in telling our story, so we believe that this move by the NHC will be followed by many projects that will enable us to tap on our rich heritage,” Meth said.
There are only 10 world heritage sites in South Africa. They include Robben Island, the Fossil Hominid Sites of South Africa, the Mapungubwe Cultural Landscape and the iSimangaliso Wetland Park.
Only countries that have signed the world heritage convention, pledging to protect their natural and cultural heritage, can submit nomination proposals for properties on their territory to be considered for inclusion on Unesco’s world heritage list.
The sites must be of outstanding universal value and meet at least one out of 10 selection criteria.
The site must represent a masterpiece of human creative genius and bear a unique, or at least exceptional, testimony to a cultural tradition, or to a civilisation which is living or which has disappeared.
“Our research has found that, this is an incredible world story. It can’t be reduced to one district of Lusikisiki. This is an Mpondo Revolt, hence Mpondo people are known to be rebellious. Unesco’s protocol works with benchmarking, so if you look at other world heritage sites, there are sites that are far below this one,” Mancotywa said.
He said the revolt was the only rural revolt that had such a far-reaching impact on the politics of the country at the time.
HONOURING HISTORY: Arts and culture deputy minister Rejoice Mabudafhasi, Premier Phumulo Masualle, Arts and Culture MEC Pemmy Majodina, OR Tambo district mayor Nomakhosazana Meth, Alfred Nzo district mayor Eunice Dikoi, Ingquza Hill mayor Pat Mdingi were some of the dignitaries who laid wreaths during the 56th commemoration of the Ingquza Hill Massacre of the Mpondo Revolt. A traditional group, right, at commemoration of Jubhele Ngozi Mlunjwa in Mkhumbeni village in Lusikisiki.