Freedom ‘is our common heritage’

25 September 2013

Telling the country’s history in an all-encompassing way shows us that the freedom we now enjoy is not “the exclusive preserve of any one social grouping but a proud heritage of all South Africans,” Deputy President Kgalema Motlanthe said on Tuesday.

Motlanthe was addressing a Heritage Day rally at Sisa Dukashe Stadium in Mdantsane township outside East London.

The Deputy President said that South Africans marked the national holiday “with the conscious understanding that there is a great deal about our history that is bad and hurtful, yet we must accept it as part of the growing pains of the free society we set out to create in 1994; a society that is united, democratic, non-racial, non-sexist and just.”

Tuesday’s occasion also marked the 50th anniversary of the establishment of Mdantsane. Home to more than 500 000 South Africans, Mdantsane is one of the oldest townships in South Africa, and was a hotbed of political activism against apartheid.

Earlier in the day, Motlanthe unveiled an upgraded memorial and laid a wreath at the site of the Egerton Massacre. In 1983, communities from East London and Mdantsane had embarked on a boycott to protest an unannounced five cent increase in bus fares.

The boycott culminated on 4 August in what was later called the Egerton Massacre, which claimed 11 lives, with a further 36 commuters injured. The massacre took place at Egerton Railway Station outside Mdantsane, where police officials from the apartheid bantustan of Ciskei shot and beat residents.

Motlanthe said that the struggle for South Africa’s liberation was waged by “the broadest cross-section of the people of our country and was not just about political freedom, but also about social, cultural, psychological and economic freedom”.

Mdantsane, he said, had to be “supported with the necessary socio-economic infrastructure to realise its full reintegration into all avenues of South African life, and not continue as a reserve for the abode of the poor, the unemployed and the disenfranchised”.

The Mdantsane heritage project, like all others in South Africa, should be “inclusive of the names, languages, places, people and cultures that were manipulated and falsified to bring about divisions,” Motlanthe said.

“Unity of all South Africans is a guiding principle which should never be undermined by sectarian and parochial interests.”

SAinfo reporter and SAnews.gov.za