Matthew Lester: Whose Heritage Day is it anyway?

Wednesday 24 September is Heritage Day. It is a pity that our country, so rich in heritage, seems to have reduced this important day to a bring-and-braai pissup.

Recently I was invited to present a lecture for the Van Zyl Slabbert Institute at Stellenbosch University. Wow, did that bring on some blast from the past memories from a long time ago in a galaxy far away.

It seems the only heritage we actively preserve today is the struggle of the ANC.  Not that it is not a very worthy cause. But the contributions of others and indeed South African history is fast fading away.

Leading up to the 1974 elections, after 14 years alone as the cricket on the thorn-bush of parliament, Helen Suzman made it known that the progressive party could not continue with her alone.

So, in a last-ditch effort ‘the Progs’ gave it everything they had and seven made it to parliament. Van Zyl Slabbert was one of them and he led the progs from 1979 to 1986.He did some great work. At least there was somebody making a noise parliament.

When Van Zyl Slabbert eventually packed it up and retreated from politics Helen Suzman and his own colleagues never forgave him. That is indeed a pity. Another leader who’s legacy has almost died.

If you mention “assassination’ in South Africa some will remember the names Hendrik Verwoerd and Dimitri Tsafendas. But few will go back on our deep heritage of assassinating each other, even without guns and knives..

Go back nearly 200 years during the great trek. Potgieter fought with Retief so they put up a sign in the Free State. Potgieter’s followers went north to the Transvaal and Retief’s gaggle turned east to Natal. They left those who could not read to lurking in the Free State.

Before Dingaan murdered Retief he had already murdered Shaka. And Dingaan himself was ultimately assassinated. All this left Natal open for occupation by the British.

In the early days of the Boer war the commando leaders fought each other harder than the bloody British empire. This lead to the Paardeberg surrender, after which the Boer commandos became factionalised, ineffective and on the run.

It is said that Louis Botha was a great statesman. But he died undermined. Just for winning huge settlements off the British at the treaty of Vereeniging.

Few deny that Smuts was a brilliant man. But he was so keen on being brilliant internationally that he got undermined at home. That led to Afrikaner nationalism taking hold and the complete balls up that followed from 1948 to 1994.

Even within the Nationalist party there was never-ending cold war between the Cape and the Transvaal caucuses. You political career seemed to have something to do with what side of the river you came from. Not that FW De Klerk finishing off PW Botha was not a very good thing.

The DA fell in and out of love with Lindiwe Mazibuko in less than 3 years And the DA’s all blame their leader Helen Zille for ever bringing to the party. Her days must be getting short in politics.

Pravin Gordhan, after leading South Africa in finance so admirably for 15 years was just brushed aside with little or no acknowledgement in May 2014. White- anted for trying to curb the excesses of cabinet ministers?

We watched Zuma and Mbeki white ant each other until Zuma finally prevailed. And today that Luthuli house may well recall Zuma well before the end of the current term. Vavi’s wife may have forgiven him but some of his colleagues in COSATU never will.

We even did our best to demolish the legacy of Mandela in his closing chapter. How can it be that Arch Bishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu, Mandela’s great friend and a Nobel Laureat, is now ignored after all he has done for us?

No wonder it’s so easy for Malema to get a party going.

It is not difficult to come to the conclusion that South Africans are steeped in a deep heritage online slots of assassinating each other. We are so busy doing this that we fail to engage the enemy that is poverty and inequality.

This all makes a mockery of what Mandela stood for…’ A good leader can engage in a debate frankly and thoroughly, knowing that at the end he and the other side must be closer, and thus emerge stronger.’

Does our South African politics have to be reduced to the antics of Malema deliberately getting himself chucked out of parliament every time he wants the day off.? It was fun the first time but it’s now a wet joke and actually getting him nowhere.

Why can we not find a natural successor to lead South Africa? Or are we just going to carry on droning de la Rey, de la Rey or umshini wami.

Back in 1974 elections Gordon Waddell rallied the money and support of Tony Bloom and Humphrey Borkum to make it to parliament, He could have gone a long way. But he only lasted 5 years and didn’t stand for re-election. He was, by his own admission, quite simply bored silly. Louis Luyt probably went the same way. Not that many bought his act.

Maybe the real problem may just be BBBEE itself. Zuma aside a member of parliament is not exactly rolling in the bucks. A cabinet minister only scores around -R2 million per annum plus travel perks. Just the suits and shirts must eat a lot of that.

So, if you are an up and coming BEE you can go into politics and get bored. Or  stuff up at a Bank, get paid millions and retire on a cruise with a F$CK the poor oopsie. A talented new South African would be bonkers to go into politics.

The experiences of Waddell, Luyt, Sexwale and now Ramaphosa show that it simply doesn’t work to strive to make a pile and then retreat to politics.

MP’s reading this rave might be thinking it’s time to make some representations to the parliamentary remuneration committee.

An unfortunate heritage of RSA is that we spend more time fighting over leaders than leading. We have only once in our history managed to gather behind one leader, Mandela. That was our Messiah moment.

Those who reckon that a Government is going to lead us to achieving the ideals of the National development Plan are simply sitting in the wrong movie. It will require all South Africans to make a meaningful contribution. In addition to paying their taxes, that is.

Maybe there is more to Heritage Day than meets the eye.

This article also appears on www.biznews.com


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