A beacon of hope for Humankind

By Satyagraha Reporter

September is a month when we celebrate our heritage.   South Africa has had two kinds of heritage, one an apartheid heritage where a philosophy of separation of accentuation of differences and of a hierarchical relationship between the races was nurtured and two a large section of the liberation heritage where commonality, unity based on our common humanity and common aspirations was forged on the basis of nonracialism, and equality.  There was a third side as well where a strong Africanist policy based on the assertion of an African identity and nationalism was also part of our heritage.  A fourth sector was the one that expanded from the Africanist to a Black philosophy developing a unity among the oppressed along the racial division of White and Black.     

How does one bring these diverse strands together so that we can build a common South African culture for the future is the issue we have to grapple with. Departing from this premise then we need to examine heritage we bring against the nature of transformation we aspire to see and the steps taken in the past 13 years towards such transformation.  In considering where we are at today, we need to consider firstly whether the transformation process is in line with our thinking and secondly what are possible factors that need to be taken into account for the future. 

Apartheid tried to divide initially the white races from the black races.  This did not work.  Many whites did not agree with this racist approach and joined the liberation struggle instead.   The White community is not a homogeneous community, it comprised of large communities of Afrikaners, themselves an evolved community, the English speaking community and then sizeable population of Portuguese speaking, and other European groups who were not necessarily in unity with the strategies of apartheid.

The Black community broadly comprised of the various African groups, the Indian groups, and the so called Coloured groups, also not totally homogeneous.  Apartheid tried to divide the black group into ethnic groups further dividing the Coloured and the African into linguistic groups.  Their strategy was to accentuate the differences and thereby sow division among the groups.  The difference was that to a large extent the blacks were united in their aspirations to overthrow apartheid and bring about a democratic nonracial order in the country.   This fervor for liberation is what forged the unity and passion for work in those who participated in the liberation struggle, both black and white.   There was always a camaraderie which existed beyond race and class issues.  Here was a relationship based on a passion for liberation, but alongside liberation there was the need for equity in terms of access to education, housing, resources, work, and social amenities such as health facilities, transportation and recreational facilities. 

Today 13 years after liberation when we celebrate our heritage it is that unity which we should celebrate.  It is that unity and concern that brought us together and once again we need to rise above racial and ethnic divides and dedicate ourselves to the cause for which we and our fore fathers fought.  That cause was for everyone to have access to basic necessities of life such as education and educational facilities such as laboratories and libraries, computers and other technological equipment, housing, work, health care, transportation and recreation.  

This is transformation of society in real terms not just in demographics.  When women begin to do work that men have been traditionally doing it does not make society gender sensitive.  Society only becomes gender sensitive when everyone accepts a useful role in society without regard to gender, race or ethnicity, and all work becomes complementary.  If we can achieve this kind of transformation we will indeed once again be an example for the world to follow as we did when we became the first country to dismantle our nuclear plant, when we negotiated a democratic order without blood shed when we learnt to forgive and to confess and apologize for the wrongs committed through the Truth and Reconciliation Commission.  Now we can also show the world how to live with diversity and rise above the bounds of racism, ethnicity and self aggrandizement as we celebrate our heritage.