Cape Town – While South Africans celebrated Heritage Day on Thursday, the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) called on Africans to reflect on their collective dispossession and displacement adding that in South Africa there was no heritage to celebrate so long as the majority of the population remained landless and on the outskirts of the country’s economy.
In a statement the red berets’ said that the heritage of South Africa was one of dispossession and continued humiliation at the hands of a white-minority that continued to exploit “our people and turn Africans against one another”.
“Heritage refers to a culture, tradition, language, norms and customs. At the forefront of the observance of Heritage is the ability to practice value and cultural systems free from persecution, oppression, spiritual and economic restraints.
“To have heritage means to be able to exist with pride, a pride in the identity that defines our forebearers and us, and carrying our Heritage, languages and symbols which are inextricably linked to our relationship with the land
“We are people defined by fear and hopelessness, where farmworkers are abused, brutalised and killed by white farm owners who the government of the day fears and is undermined by,” said EFF national spokesperson Vuyani Pambo.
He said that the identity of Africans was ridiculed through the bastardisation of their languages in examination papers that made a mockery of African languages by altering English words to make them sound African.
Pambo added that African identity was also undermined by corporates who defined Africans as inferior to the standards and norms of beauty set by white and that African children are told that their hair is unkempt, damaged and dry in the land of their birth.
“The black skin which defines all of us in Africa has become a signifier of criminality, inferiority and decay, and our landlessness is at the centre of all the problems facing us as a people. As we observe Heritage Day, we call on all Africans to remember these painful realities beyond the wearing of customary clothing.
“As a concrete move from meaningless reconciliation towards a heritage founded on justice, the EFF reiterates its call for land expropriation without compensation. The spiritual, cultural and economic strength of a people is dependent on the land, and without the land, we have no ability to call our souls our own,” said Pambo.
In his address to the nation commemorating Heritage Day today, Ramaphosa said that heritage was the source of identity and cohesion for South Africa and that it made shaped and moulded South Africans.
Meanwhile Democratic Alliance leader John Steenhuisen said South Africans do not share a common concept heritage but this should not matter in a country that will finally accept a non-racial future.
“We don’t share a single heritage, nor even a common idea of what heritage means,” Steenhuisen said in a statement marking Heritage Day.
“We truly are a melting pot of people, cultures and ideas. But that doesn’t mean we must live our lives separately, divided from one another by these demographic features. Our future is still one, united South Africa, and our only way of achieving a prosperous future for all is by pooling our resources and ideas.”
He said South Africans should unite around ideals that mattered more than skin colour.
The statement comes as the DA faces criticism for recently formally adopting a policy statement that rejects black empowerment and the idea of race as a proxy for disadvantagement.
Steenhuisen insisted that “because our party is not driven by a specific racial or ethnic nationalism” it is able to fight for the needs of all South Africans.
“The way this debate has raged in recent weeks, it is hard to imagine that there was a time not so long ago when non-racialism was considered a noble principle by all – one that just about every South African claimed to aspire to. And this includes the members of the ruling alliance. But how times have changed,” Steenhuisen said.
“Supporting the idea that we are so much more than products of our skin colour should not be a controversial position, and I know that sanity will eventually prevail and many of those who now try to paint non-racialism as some kind of radical idea will eventually come full circle.”
* Additional reporting by African News Agency