The Rep

Celebrate what heritage?

- Phumelele P Hlati

September is designated as Heritage Month by the South African government.

The stated aim for this designatio­n is for us citizens to: use Heritage Month to foster greater social cohesion, nation building and a shared national identity”.

It is government s belief that by celebratin­g Heritage Month we have: “…created a conducive environmen­t for all people to embrace and celebrate what was inherited or bequeathed to us by our forebears”.

I will give you a few minutes to digest this.

The government has, without realising the irony of this statement, called upon all of us, as diverse as we are, to celebrate what was passed on to us by our parents and all the people that came before us.

The World Bank released a report in March this year titled Inequality in Southern Africa: An assessment of the Southern African Customs Union, that said: “SA, the largest country in SACU, is the most unequal country in the world, ranking first among 164 countries in the World Bank’s global poverty database.”

This is what the government wants us to celebrate. It wants us to celebrate being bequeathed by our forebears with poverty, lack of opportunit­ies, joblessnes­s and being thirdclass citizens in the land of our forefather­s.

They make this call knowing, or at least they should know, that apartheid has made sure that more than 80% of the people of this country, and these happen to be black, by design and not by chance, would have nothing much to bequeath to their future generation­s.

This is a country that only came out of that oppressive system less than a generation ago and we have hardly made a dent in the huge backlog that apartheid deliberate­ly created.

This is the country that seemingly, under the present government, has no desire nor inclinatio­n to tackle the most obvious legacies of that evil system.

I will be kind and only mention one apartheid legacy which has made sure the upward mobility of the black majority is stifled and slowed down to a trickle apartheid spatial planning.

The settlement patterns have hardly changed since we got rid of apartheid in our statute books.

The new settlement­s are built seemingly without any thought on how to reverse the labour pool settlement­s they were designed to be through apartheid.

Anyone who has done geography would have come across settlement principles that the less affluent should be settled closer to the city centre where the jobs are, to reduce their transport burden.

The more affluent should be settled further away from the centre because they have the means to commute to and from work.

Apartheid deliberate­ly inverted this system for the benefit of the white minority.

We have, in the 28 years since apartheid, not made any deliberate attempt to reverse this system.

So when the government wants us to celebrate “what was inherited or bequeathed to us by our forebears”, it sounds like a sick joke.

To celebrate traditions and customs without real economic changes is a waste of time. How do we dance and dress up while hungry and unemployed?

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