Volume 7 No. 8
1 September 1996
- A look at events which made news in August
- Provincial Briefs
- FW pleads innocence
- Lies and distortions
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- New bill to change law on ‘illegitimate’ children
- Commission set up on Cosatu’s future
- Road to development
- Summit aims to speed up higher education change
- Teacher re-deployment needed to end inequalities
- Helping the nation to read
- Is the media too hard on govt?
- ‘Chief rep’ with a mission
- New law to protect Gauteng consumers
- ‘Greed’ breeds taxi violence
- SA’s Olympic team still has some way to run
- Monuments, culture and heritage in a democratic SA
De Klerk revives the ‘old’ NP
The irony of the recent political party submissions to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission is that the parties that had least to apologise for about their conduct during the apartheid years, said sorry – while those who had most to apologise for, denied just about everything. The National Party in particular failed to impress, through their pitiful justification of their past policies, and their outright denial of actions committed by the army and police under their command. It is distressing that when given the opportunity before the nation and world to come clean on the atrocities of the apartheid era – and thereby make a decisive break with its past – the National Party chose to deliberately obscure and distort its role in apartheid atrocities. Their reticence to tell the whole truth is a measure of the National Party’s disregard for the lives of the many thousands of South Africans who died at the hands of their government. While De Klerk’s apology for the system of apartheid should be welcomed, it is rendered meaningless by his failure to acknowledge the role of his party in sanctioning assassinations, kidnappings, torture, massacres and assault. What is clear from De Klerk’s submission is that he shows no real remorse for what he or his party have done. The National Party is clearly not genuine about reconciliation in South Africa. The National Party’s conception of South African history belies its new image as a democratic and reformed organisation. Among the astonishing claims which De Klerk makes include that:
The National Party government was legitimate and internationally-recognised. This is despite the fact that the National Party government ruled for over 40 years without a popular mandate, was expelled from the UN General Assembly and became the pariah of the world community.
The bulk of conflict over the last two decades was primarily caused by the ANC’s armed struggle. This astonishing claim ignores the violence perpetrated by the state and its surrogates which preceded and followed the ANC’s resort to armed struggle. It ignores also that while the ANC was legitimately using force to oppose an iniquitous system, the National Party was using violence to maintain it. There can be no comparison, either in moral or political terms, between the struggle waged by the ANC and the war waged by the National Party.
The National Party was merely defending itself against ‘Soviet aggression’. This rooi gevaar mentality was used by the NP for years to justify its brutal repression of South Africa’s democratic movement engaged in a rightful struggle for democracy. That De Klerk chooses to use the same reasoning now is very telling about how little his party has moved away from its past.
It was the ANC which blurred the distinction between legitimate and illegitimate targets. It was the National Party government which made no distinction whatsoever between legitimate and illegitimate targets. It is the National Party that has been responsible time and again for the massacre of civilians and the murder of activists. The ANC, by contrast, went to great lengths – some would say extreme lengths – to ensure that in the conduct of its armed actions it avoided the loss of civilian life. There are numerous other instances in which De Klerk has sought to distort the history of this country, relying on old-style National Party propaganda and half-truths to justify the actions of his government. Most seriously, however, De Klerk is guilty of misleading the commission and the nation about the nature of covert operations which were carried out by his government – and which received sanction from the highest structures of his administration. The National Party has missed perhaps its most important opportunity to break with the past. In doing so, it has rendered itself incapable of moving with any integrity into the future.
A look at events which made news in August
Police charged with murder back at work
KwaZulu/Natal police implicated in the Shobashobane massacre on Christmas Day last year have been reinstated at the same police station, just a few paces away from the scene of the massacre. Meanwhile, the Shobashobane community are expected to volunteer information about the shooting incident to the same police station where the two officers had been stationed. The policemen who appeared in court last month with 33 co-accused were released on bail. They have since been reinstated to their jobs. The KwaZulu/Natal ANC condemned the reinstatement of the two officers and the R200 bail for the alleged killers, and called on the criminal justice system to be part of the national effort to stamp out crime.
Fight against gangs heats up
The fight against gangsterism, particularly in the Western Cape, was thrust to the top of the national agenda after members of People Against Gangsterism and Drugs (Pagad) marched on the homes of known gang leaders, resulting in the death of gang leader Rashaad Staggie. In response to the actions, the ANC said while it recognised that urgent measures should be taken up to stop the growing crime rate, it could not allow a situation where people took the law into their own hands. It said communities needed to work together with police within the parameters of the law to stamp out crime and gangsterism.
Public to comment on Abortion Bill
The proposed legislation on termination of pregnancy was of such interest to all South Africans that wide consultation was needed to ensure its contents reflected the opinions of all. This assurance was made by parliamentary health committee chair Abe Nkomo recently. He said the committee took it very seriously that it was its duty to consult widely, before any decisions were taken on the controversial Bill. The cabinet approved the Bill last month.
Tembisa station findings released
The inquiry into the Tembisa railway station stampede, which left 16 people dead and 65 injured last month, finalised its investigations and presented its findings to transport minister Mac Maharaj. Among ten recommendations, the commission recommended that individuals in the security should face punishable charges. Witnesses had testified that the use of electric batons in the tragedy had shown negligence on the part of the Metro rail officials. The batons were not suitable for crowd control, but self-defence. But the commission said it would not report on blameworthiness. A mandatory inquest, required in terms of the Inquest Act relating to all unnatural deaths, would be still be conducted. Gauteng to offer farming land The Gauteng provincial government has unveiled plans to assist 60 prospective small-scale farmers, who had been selected for training in farming. About 10,000 hectares of state-owned land would be released by the Gauteng provincial government on long-term leases for agricultural development. The programme was aimed at people earning between R1,500 and R3,500 a month to lease the land for three years, after which they would buy or renew the lease. It is aimed also at redressing skewed land holding patterns by redistributing agricultural land to farmworkers, labour tenants and disadvantaged communities.
MPs to disclose financial interests
The National Assembly has approved a code of ethics which compel members of parliament to make public their financial affairs. The code requires the opening of a register of members interests. Shares and financial interests in a company, directorships, remunerations offered for consultancies and financial sponsorships will have to be disclosed.
Civil service restructuring project launched
The Presidential Review Commission on the public service has set up a research programme on ways in which the government would be able to overhaul the civil service. The 16-member commission will investigate various aspects, among others of the functioning of the civil service, including departmental structures, functions and performance assessments, budgeting, political and financial accountability and public participation. Its brief includes designing a medium and long-term plan for the restructuring of the public service. SADF role in destabilisation revealed A former senior officer SA Defence Force and accused in the KwaMakutha massacre trial has disclosed how the apartheid military had secretly worked with rebel movements in Angola and Mozambique to defend apartheid. Brigadier Cor van Niekerk, on trial with former defence minister Magnus Malan and 15 others, disclosed that the army had provided logistical support and training to rebels in the neighbouring states. The aim was to diminish the threat against South Africa’s apartheid regime. He also admitted hiding documents on the military intelligence project to give Inkatha recruits paramilitary training.
Madiba won’t stand for ANC president next year
The ANC National Executive Committee meeting last month was formally informed by president Nelson Mandela of his intention to step down as President of South Africa at the expiry of his term of office. Mandela also said he would not present himself for nomination as a candidate for ANC president at the 1997 national conference. The meeting expressed its respect for the President’s decision as well as its profound appreciation of the sterling service he has rendered to the ANC and the country in a lifetime of struggle. The NEC meeting also addressed the question of discipline within the ranks of the ANC and unanimously endorsed the long-standing ANC ethos of open, democratic debate and the contest of ideas within the ranks of the organisation. “Such debate is critical not only for the synthesis of ideas within the ANC and society at large, but also for the promotion of the transformative process in our society” the NEC said in a statement. Internal democratic debate, however, should not be confused with public pronouncements by individual leaders and members challenging ANC policies, questioning the bona fides of other members and casting aspersions on the performance of the movement in government or elsewhere, it said.
During September the Eastern Cape ANC will focus on the Bisho Massacre, which occurred on 7 September 1992. The anniversary of the massacre will coincide with the hearing of the Truth Commission on the event, which take place on 9, 10 and 11 September. The ANC is helping the commission to contact victims of the massacre in order for them to make presentations. The ANC is also preparing submission to the commission on its role in organising the march which led to the massacre.
The current taxi violence and the rise of anti-crime groups, including People Against Gangsterism and Drugs (Pagad), are high on the political agenda in the Western Cape. The ANC successfully negotiated peace within the taxi industry. During the taxi violence between Codeta and Cata taxi drivers, several members of the ANC were abducted and assaulted by Cata taxi drivers. Well-known gang leader Rashaad Staggie was brutally murdered by Pagad. The ANC will continue to play its role in an attempt to bring peace and stability to all communities in the province.
The ANC Provincial Executive Committee in KwaZulu/Natal held its bosberaad at La Mercy outside Durban in August. This was the first PEC bosberaad after the ANC achieved a resounding victory in the local government elections, especially in urban areas. The ANC provincial leadership saluted all the people of KwaZulu/Natal for maintaining peace before, during and after the elections. They also sent their revolutionary salutes to the people who voted for peace, democracy and development and therefore voted for the ANC.
The Mpumalanga ANC was deeply distressed with the attempt on the life of its Bushbuckridge regional chairperson Freddy Mathebula. Mathebula’s house was attacked in August. He managed to escape through the back door with his two children. Two unexploded petrol bombs and a five litre container filled with petrol were found at the scene. The Mpumalanga ANC called on the people in Bushbuckridge and the entire province to strongly condemn such criminal actions.
Over 500 delegates representing the ANC, SACP, Cosatu, Sanco, Sasco and Cosas, attended a Provincial Alliance Summit in August in Gauteng. The summit was hosted by the ANC, under the theme “Consolidating gains and deepening democracy for a people-centred and driven development growth”. This was the first time since taking political power that democratic formations gathered to take stock of where they were moving to. The objectives of the summit were to strengthen the relationship between the ANC, SACP, Cosatu and other MDM forces; develop coherence within the alliance on key strategic issues; deepen the understanding and role in participatory development and planning; deepen the understanding and role in the implementation of the Masakhane Campaign; develop perspectives on the delivery of the RDP and strengthen the alliance and MDM so as to ensure that there is a programme in place to advance reconstruction and development.
FW pleads innocence
The National Party has refused to acknowledge its role in apartheid atrocities, Steyn Speed writes.
While some political parties were quite forthright last month in their submissions to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission about their role in human rights violations of the past, others – particularly the National Party – showed no remorse at all.
All political parties in parliament except the Inkatha Freedom Party made submissions to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission on their respective positions with regard to human rights violations of the past. Some submissions focussed less on violations of the past, as they did contentious political questions of the present.
The Freedom Front’s Constand Viljoen used his party’s submission to campaign for the extension of the amnesty cut-off date from December 1993, when the Interim Constitution was finalised, to May 1994, when the new democratic government took office.
The Pan Africanist Congress also called for the extension of the cut-off date and complained about the “contemptible treatment” of members of its military wing, Apla, by members of the former police and SADF. PAC president Clarence Makwetu complained that two former Apla cadres were forced to appear in leg irons while people like former defence minister Magnus Malan were treated differently.
However, the prize for the most inadequate submission must go to the National Party, which not only failed to accept responsibility for many of its past atrocities, but also tried to rewrite the history of apartheid. Although he apologised for the “immeasurable pain and suffering” caused by the NP’s former policies, NP leader FW de Klerk denied his party had ever used assassination, murder, torture, rape or assault.
He further claimed the notorious National Security Management System, which had coordinated repression throughout the 1980s, was little more than a structure to provide services to impoverished black areas. This was the only role the NSMS played in countering the democratic movement, he said, because “bad living conditions were part of the revolutionary strategy”. De Klerk also claimed to have shut down the NSMS in 1990, despite evidence that it remained substantially unchanged under the name, National Co-ordinating Mechanism. In an attempt to distance the National Party from its past, De Klerk asked the truth commission not to hold the ‘new’ National Party responsible for the actions of the ‘old’ National Party.
He went further to plead ignorance about NP government activities under his predecessor PW Botha. Botha was unwilling to cooperate in the preparation of the submission, he told the commission. What he didn’t tell the commission was that he was a member of the National Party cabinet since 1978, and that several of his current colleagues had served on the State Security Council during the 1980s.
Commenting on the National Party’s submission, ANC deputy secretary general Cheryl Carolus said it was unacceptable that De Klerk had tried to distance himself from the actions of his predecessors. “In its submission, the ANC did not try to distance itself from what took place under the leadership of [past presidents] Chief Albert Luthuli or Oliver Tambo. We would not have joined this organisation if we were not comfortable with its past,” she told a media briefing.
Though he tried to distance himself from past NP leaders, De Klerk nevertheless admitted to a “deep respect” for his predecessors. “Within the context of their time, circumstances and convictions they were good and honourable men,” he said.
The Democratic Party tried to justify their participation in apartheid structures as an attempt to hold the National Party government accountable for its actions. Presenting the party’s submission to the commission, DP MP Colin Eglin said the decision in 1983 to participate in the tricameral parliament had been based on the belief that it was important to show there was white opposition to apartheid. Eglin acknowledged that participation in parliament did have “its costs and limits”. None of the party’s which represented former oppressors was prepared to apologise for the suffering they had caused.
It was left to the liberation movements, the ANC and PAC, to acknowledge the human rights violations that had occurred in the course of their legitimate struggle against apartheid. The ANC apologised “without qualification” for the human rights violations which had occurred in detention camps in exile, as well as for civilian deaths which had resulted from armed operations by the ANC’s armed wing, Umkhonto we Sizwe. ANC deputy president Thabo Mbeki stressed however that it was never ANC policy to permit random attacks on civilian targets. “It was the policy of the ANC throughout the conduct of its armed struggle to avoid unnecessary loss of life,” he said. The ANC submission said the organisation concurred with the 1992 Motsuenyane Commission report which found a number of excesses had been committed against detainees by the ANC’s security department, but that “it was never established that there was any systematic policy of abuse”. The commission report illustrated many consistent efforts by the ANC leadership to establish mechanisms of oversight and accountability, it said.
In its submission, the PAC said attacks on white civilians in the 1990s had been a mistake and had not been official policy sanctioned by the organisation’s high command in exile. However, the PAC leadership took full responsibility for the decision by internal Apla guerillas to target white civilians, Clarence Makwetu said.
Lies and distortions
When FW de Klerk addressed the Truth and Reconciliation Commission on Wednesday 21 August in Cape Town he spun a yarn which was largely a combination of half-truths, distortions of history and plain lies. Below is a selection of some of them:
What De Klerk said: “The unconventional strategies from the side of the government… never included the authorisation of assassination, murder, torture, rape, assault or the like.”
What he didn’t say: In June 1985 a ‘death signal’ was sent to the State Security Council from the head of the Eastern Cape Joint Management Committee recommending the murders of the ‘Cradock Four’ – Matthew Goniwe, Sparrow Mkhonto, Fort Calata and Sicelo Mhlawuli. By the end of the month, the four were dead. This is just one example of a strategy which included the “taking out” of activists by units such as those linked to the Civil Cooperation Bureau and Vlakplaas. Vlakplaas and CCB operatives have admitted to several assassinations and murders carried out in the course of their duties. The Human Rights Commission recorded around 100 assassinations and 200 attempted assassinations of anti-apartheid figures inside and outside the country between 1974 and 1989.
What De Klerk said: “The main accent [of the National Security Management System] should fall on the provision of effective government and social services and in promoting inclusive constitutional solutions.”
What he didn’t say: Far from being a meek co-ordinating structure to upgrade living conditions for black township dwellers, the National Security Management System (NSMS) oversaw the entire operation of overt and covert state actions against the democratic movement and the civilian population. One arm of the NSMS was the Strategic Communications branch, which was located in the State Security Council secretariat, which developed strategies to deal with requests from ministries, government departments or local NSMS structures. These strategies included assassinations, attacks on neighbouring countries, economic sabotage, campaigns of character defamation, setting up front companies, propaganda campaigns and other ‘dirty tricks’.
What De Klerk said: “The State of Emergency… significantly contributed to the creation of a climate in which genuine and workable negotiations could take place.”
What he didn’t say: During the successive states of emergency between 1985 and 1989: over 80,000 people were detained without trial; over 10,000 detainees were tortured, assaulted or suffered other abuse; over 70 people died in detention; several newspapers and publications were banned, suspended or restricted; thousands of people were prosecuted in numerous political trials; over 100 organisations were banned or restricted; outdoor political gatherings and thousands of indoor gatherings were banned. Over 32,000 SADF troops were deployed in 96 townships in 1985 to support the SA Police
What De Klerk said: “On 9 July the government announced the final termination of the National Security Management System, and also drastically scaled down the role of the State Security Council.”
What he didn’t say: The National Co-ordinating Mechanism (NCM) which De Klerk established in 1990 was substantively the same as the notorious NSMS. According to the official NCM handbook, the security committees chaired by SAP or SADF officers from local to national level remained in place. The manual notes: “the principle of the application of the full powers of the state in order to resist the revolutionary onslaught is still valid.” The old NSMS security structures remained in place, as did the strategic communications branch, which was responsible for devising stratkom operations. A top secret document from March 1990 said De Klerk was briefed on a broad spectrum of sensitive projects, and had given his approval “in principle” for the running of stratkom projects. The November 1992 raid by the Goldstone Commission on a military intelligence front company provided further evidence of the De Klerk government’s covert war against the ANC well into the negotiations process.
MP’s become more transparent
Parliament’s new code of conduct will make for greater transparency and reduce the chances of corruption among MPs, writes Khensani Makhubela.
A code of conduct, adopted by the Rules Committees of the Senate and National Assembly in May, is aimed at preventing members of parliament from using their positions for personal gain. To achieve a political order in South Africa that is truly open, transparent and accountable – as is envisaged in the constitution – it is considered essential that its elected leaders maintain the highest standards of propriety to ensure that their integrity and that of the political institutions in which they serve are beyond question. Nobody bound by the code can place themselves in a position which conflicts with their responsibilities as a public representative in parliament – nor may they take improper benefit, profit or advantage from their position.
“In my view, disclosure is far more important than the strictest taboos. For with disclosure comes public debate and with public debate comes clarity on what norms are decent and what not, comes more disclosure and more debate. A culture of acceptable ethical behaviour is the result,” says joint ethics subcommittee chair Kader Asmal.
The code applies to all people entitled to be present and participate in the proceedings of parliament. It also applies to any spouse, permanent companion or dependent child of any member of parliament. The information that defines the source and nature of an MP’s private financial interests will be open to public review and scrutiny. Members of parliament are required to disclose: shares and financial interest held in any public or private company; any employer providing remuneration; directorships in any corporate body; memberships in any partnership recognised by law; any consultancy or retainership; any financial sponsorships or assistance provided from non-party sources; any gifts or hospitality with a value in excess of R350. Personal gifts within the family and hospitality of a specifically traditional or cultural nature also need to be disclosed. Any other benefit of a material nature – such as international trips other than personal visits paid for by MPs themselves, interests in property and any public or private pensions – have to be disclosed.
“It should be pointed out that certain information concerning the exact values of some interest and the interests of family members and the exact value of incomes from outside employment, directorships and partnerships will be disclosed in a confidential section. This information will be reviewed by the Members’ Interests Committee to ensure that family members and outside incomes are not being used to secure inappropriate benefits,” Asmal says.
“In the inevitable process of broadening the ethical rules that cover members, and indeed other categories of state and parastatal figures with influence, there is nothing to stop parliament at some state in the future from opening the confidential register to wider scrutiny. But for the moment there will be a confidential register for specific categories, and it is hoped that this will assist in the confidence building process of encouraging all members to be as frank and detailed as possible,” Asmal says. “The question of financial donations to political parties requires attention. It is the practice the world over for political parties to solicit and receive funding from those who, in their wisdom or otherwise ,deem it a worthwhile thing to do. The golden rule of disclosure must be discussed in relation to this issue. In addition, the question of state funding for political parties must be discussed,” he says. The code also provides for certain activities which a member of parliament disavows altogether to serve in the public domain. Under the code, an MP may not take any employment that is not sanctioned by their political party or employment that is incompatible with a member’s function as an elected public representative. An MP is also prohibited from engaging in lobbying activities in return for remuneration. “What we are doing today is only a first step. We can’t guarantee that corruption will not occur but we can assure the public that when it does occur the most determined steps will be taken to root it out and punish those responsible,” Asmal says.
New bill to change law on ‘illegitimate’ children
The recently published Birth and Death Registration Amendment Bill, which will be passed through parliament this year, is likely to be welcomed by parents who were said to have ‘illegitimate’ children and to children who according to the law were previously ‘illegitimate’.
The bill, which is an interim measure, is intended to recognise customary unions and religious marriages as legal marriages, and to replace the expression “illegitimate child” by the more acceptable and descriptive expression, namely “child born out of wedlock”. The Marriages Act of 1961 does not recognise customary unions and “religious marriage”. The result of this is that children born out of such unions and marriages are being registered under the Births and Deaths Registration Act (1992) as illegitimate. This is contrary to the provisions of Chapter 3 of the Constitution, not to afford the same degree of recognition to all marriage in whatever manner concluded. “For some of the muslim and black children who were born in a polygamist marriage, the [Marriage] act was unreasonable because it referred to those children as illegitimate, even if their parents were married. It was only the children of the first wife who were referred to as legitimate because the parents would have been married in church,” says Tredoux Attie, home affairs legal division head. Any parent or guardian of a child born out of wedlock whose parents married each other after the registration of his or her birth, may apply to the home affairs director general to amend the registration of their birth as if their parents were married to each other at the time of their birth.
Commission set up on Cosatu’s future
Cosatu has set up a commission to chart the way forward for the South African labour movement. Mziwakhe Hlangani reports.
Having fought for the rights of workers for the past decade, the Congress of South African trade Unions (Cosatu) is now faced with the challenges of a changed South Africa and a globalised economy. Cosatu has established the Commission on the Future of the Union, charged with the responsibility of working out new strategies to meet the challenges. Cosatu vice-president Connie September, who chairs the commission, says the role of the labour movement, having fought apartheid, is now to ensure that those demands made in the process of the struggle for liberation – including job creation, training, housing and electricity – are implemented.
The September Commission, as it is known, has also to find new methods to organise workers: “Recruiting members through the motivation of fighting against apartheid no longer exists. New methods need to be found.” The focal point in the fast-changing competitive economy is to engage in industrial restructuring debates and centralised bargaining in all sectors. Human resource development, workplace restructuring, productivity and new methods of efficiency are such important features of the commission’s investigation. Now that some former Cosatu executive officers are in parliament and are working towards implementation of the new Labour Relations Act does not mean the country has achieved economic freedom, she says. While South Africa has undergone political transformation, this has not changed the situation at workplaces and communities yet, she says. “Politically, we need to defend our new democracy. Economically, workers need to improve their lives,” she says.
Consultations with individual affiliate unions started in August. The investigations of the commission will take the form of interviews with as many workers as possible, discussions with other federations, the business community, members of parliament and many others. This is an opportunity for workers to and officials across the country to voice their concerns about Cosatu and future. At the end of March 1997 the commission will draft its recommendations, in time for discussions and debates in affiliate member unions prior to Cosatu’s congress. The Cosatu central executive committee will feed all the reports into the September 1997 Cosatu national congress, where they are expected to be adopted.
Road to development
A ‘corridor’ between Mpumalanga and Maputo is being built to stimulate trade, tourism and local economies, writes Khensani Makhubela.
The Mpumalanga provincial government is embarking on four major road projects which are going to benefit local communities and neighbouring states. The initiative, known as the Maputo-Mpumalanga Corridor, aims to stimulate the South African, Mozambican and Mpumalanga economies.
“By initiating these corridors we will be boosting the economy of the province and the neighbouring countries,” says Mpumalanga premier’s spokesperson Oupa Pilane. “We have many illegal immigrants from neighbouring countries in South Africa and once we boost the economy of their countries, they will be attracted back to their countries for greener pastures, and this will reduce the number of illegal immigrants we have in the country,” he says. This transport project aims at upgrading roads, rail, aviation and harbours.
Pilane says the project is not only going to concentrate on transport. It is looking at big business, filling stations, hotels and curio shops. “When tourists come to Mpumalanga they will not be coming to Kruger National Park and other tourist places only, they will get the opportunity to go to the sea in Mozambique once the route is shortened. The corridor will also cut transport costs, and the tourism industry is going to boom in Mpumalanga,” he says. This move is an inter-governmental, provincial and regional effort to get development going.
The department of finance in Mpumalanga has conducted a survey on the project, and found out that it has a potential of creating 100,000 jobs in Mpumalanga and Maputo alone. The Maputo development corridor’s first road and the Trans-Kalahari corridor will be built by November this year, says Pilane.
The Mpumalanga government met with the president and various ministers, and there was agreement that the Trans-Kalahari Corridor to Namibia needed to be linked with the Maputo corridor initiative through the Northern Province, North West and Gauteng. There was also a discussion on a linkage between Lothair/Ermelo and Swaziland. In the Northern Province the corridor will link Tzaneen and Nelspruit to Mozambique.
A joint presentation of Mpumalanga and Swaziland was made to KwaZulu/Natal premier Frank Mdlalose on linking KwaZulu/Natal through Swaziland to Mozambique. The project is going to contribute significantly to development, job creation, economic growth and earning foreign exchange, Pilane says.
Summit aims to speed up higher education change
Higher education, and the governments role in transforming it, came under the spotlight at a recent national summit. Mziwakhe Hlangani spoke to student leader David Makhura about the summit.
A series of meetings, forums and workshops, culminated recently in a national education summit to find ways to empower education minister Sibusiso Bengu to lead the process of transformation at tertiary institutions.
South African Students Congress (Sasco) national president David Makhura says the change talked about in tertiary education is outlined in the framework policies of the mass democratic movement forums. Several leading figures in previously whites-only educational institutions have voiced their opposition to the state playing a key role in higher education. They talk of autonomy, saying the government would interfere with the way “our institutions are running”, precisely because they do not want to see the institutions becoming non-racial democratic institutions, Makhura says. “The government has a role to play because these are public institutions, financed by taxpayers. Determining the future of these institutions is in the hands of the government. There is no way he [Bengu] can be kept out, leaving stakeholders to resolve issues among themselves without him leading the government processes forward,” he says. It was agreed at the summit, even by conservative forces, that Bengu should lead the transformation process. This resolution had left the institutions with no shield to “hide behind autonomy”.
Another demand around transformation, which was included in a recent petition to president Nelson Mandela, is for the establishment of representative broad transformation forums on each institution. The purpose of such forums would be to ensure decision-making processes are acceptable to, and binding on, all stakeholders. “It happened in most campuses before that agreements would be reached, but those in power tend to undermine those agreements because they are sitting in different structures of authority. Once stakeholder-driven decisions are taken, such decisions would be binding on everybody, and it is easy to implement them,” Makhura says.
Sasco maintains that problems with financial assistance to students will continue until a students aid financial scheme is established. The education department has repeatedly said it is unable to pay debts incurred by students unable to pay fees. A national loan and bursary scheme is in the process of being set up. “In the meantime, students in the middle of their studies should not be excluded because they are unable to pay. Each institution should enter into arrangements so they can repay outstanding fees on completion,’ he says.
Tertiary institutions are being urged to do away with language policies that serve as a barrier to access. White institutions, particularly traditional Afrikaans campuses, use language policy to exclude the black majority by insisting courses be conducted in Afrikaans only. “These institutions should not maintain such detestable policies to create a haven for Afrikaners only. These institutions need to change such policies and shift to multi-lingual policies, by instructing in English as well to accommodate those who could not speak Afrikaans, he says. The higher education summit resolved to establish a task team charged with redrafting higher education policy. One strategic objective of the team is to ensure a white paper to be presented for legislation is informed by the policies of the democratic movement. The next summit is being planned for October.
Teacher re-deployment needed to end inequalities
The re-deployment of teachers is one of several measures necessary to end discrimination in the education system, Mziwakhe Hlangani writes.
Overspending in education last year, overstaffed urban schools and the desperate need for teachers in rural and informal settlements has made rationalisation and teacher redeployment necessary to ensure equal access to education.
The teacher redeployment plan has generated anger and fear among teachers in some provinces. And, distortion of the rationalisation strategy has also been manipulated by various political organisations, particularly the National Party, in the run-up to local elections in parts of the Western Cape. South African Democratic Teachers Union (Sadtu) secretary general Thulas Nxesi maintains transformation of education is impossible without fundamental restructuring, including altering “apartheid funding policies”. Formulas which are still being used are based on racial lines and that in itself perpetuates gross inequalities, he says. “Our premise, therefore, is that altering the funding formula is a fact which cannot be disputed by anybody in order to effect equity.” There are conservative concerns that rationalisation and subsidy cuts in mostly white privileged schools would lower the standards of the schools. They voiced their preference instead to maintaining the status quo while the majority of black schools developed and raised their standards to that of white schools, Nxesi said. Some teachers had opted for voluntary severance packages to avoid redeployment to the needy and disadvantaged areas.
Despite conflicting views on the issue, the majority of teachers who understand the need for redressing past imbalances and inequity in education support the deployment strategy, he says. The principle of equity has been agreed upon by the Department of Education and Sadtu. To avoid mass retrenchments, it was resolved that a limited voluntary severance package should be on offer within two years. Voluntary redeployment of teachers, made compulsory if necessary, would achieve improved pupil-teacher ratios over five years. “The fact that we agreed redeployment should be gradual was a show of being considerate because of the sensitivity of the process. Sadtu’s position is clear on this: that teacher redeployment should not mean retrenchment. Instead it should mean reabsorption of redundant teachers who were ready to work in peri-urban and rural areas .
” At least four provinces are affected by serious shortages of teachers, including the Eastern Cape, KwaZulu/Natal, Northern Province and Mpumalanga, whereas Western Cape has an excess of 6,000 teachers. The four provinces where there is a serious shortage of teachers form more than 50 percent of the teacher population nationally. Sadtu has questioned the commitment of parties opposed to rationalisation to the building a non-racial South Africa, free of all discrimination. To disadvantaged communities the rationalisation process is long overdue. The majority of black teachers and progressive black and white organisations support the redeployment plan as an actual redistribution of resources, he says. Feelings of impatience on the department’s commitment to deliver would be addressed significantly since the majority is faced with real problems of overcrowding and poor learning conditions, he says.
Sadtu disputes research findings indicating there is an over-supply of teachers. As a result of apartheid backlog, effective teacher-training has failed to reach the required mark. This has resulted in the present imbalances in education. Teacher development in various fields was stifled by racist intentions to produce unemployable teachers whose emphasis was on social sciences or humanities at the expense of science and technical subjects. Meanwhile maths, technical and science teachers are in critical demand. “That is not meant to say humanities were not very important. But there has been emphasis on humanity at the expense of the other fields of study – technical, science, early childhood care – which had been neglected,” Nxesi says.
He says focus should be shifted to retraining those declared redundant. Some teachers could be sidetracked towards early childhood educare. More teachers could be diverted to adult basic education. Redeployment agencies to compile data on a national and provincial level of excess teachers are being established to facilitate transfers. “Because of the sensitivity of the process itself, it was decided that it not be left in the hands of the government, inspectors and school principals alone. Having past experiences where the whole process could be abused by certain authoritative inspectors and principals, who wanted to settle scores, it was further agreed to jointly draw the finalised procedural redeployment manual, available to every teacher,” Nxesi says.
The process of policy making and implementation is no longer the sole prerogative of education department bureaucrats. It is a joint project of the organised profession in the form of the unions and the bureaucracy. The whole question of addressing gender inequalities and removal of all obstacles to women development in education has not yet received priority attention. The teaching fraternity needs to delve deeper into debates around affirmative action of women and improvement of the present school curriculum, he says.
Helping the nation to read
A nationwide initiative to promote reading and writing is planned to coincide with International Literacy Day on 8 September. Mziwakhe Hlangani reports.
Without tackling illiteracy in South Africa, acute poverty and crime will remain insurmountable hurdles, National Literacy Co-operation director Kumi Naidoo says. Part of the campaign to promote literacy is the annual Readathon, which coincides with International Literacy Day on 8 September.
The emphasis in South Africa this year is on encouraging reading for all, whatever the age, says Naidoo. This year the National Literacy Co-operation (NLC) and Easy Reading for Adults initiatives for Readathon ’96 involve organising reading campaigns within the family and in the workplace.
One of the exciting and stimulating activities for the Readathon week includes families getting together for reading and researching the family tree, compiling family histories and writing family praise poems. In hospitals, patients and medical staff are encouraged to lobby for library and resource centres, while communities are encouraged to write letters of complaint to corporate firms in their immediate vicinities, including taxi associations, bus depot companies and cigarette companies to put reading material or exciting supplements for reading in taxis, buses and trains. Naidoo says church members are expected to combine Readathon activities with fundraising, like producing bumper stickers, bookmarks and T-shirts indicating church support for reading. Naidoo says it is distressing that more than 50 percent of the adult population in South Africa cannot read, write or count. This makes half the entire adult population of the country politically and educationally marginalised.
For many years higher education has been granted “a lions share” of the education budget at the expense of adult education. The government has to intervene and redress the inequitable distribution of resources in favour of this generation of educationally marginalised communities, he says. “Adult illiteracy did not happen by accident. It was a result of concerted efforts by the Verwoedian apartheid regimes to keep voteless blacks away from green pastures. Literacy is for political and economic empowerment. “There is a lot of work to be done. Without literacy the majority of people will remain politically uninformed,” he says. The NLC wants to ensure it reaches an average of 7,000 adult learners nationwide each year through its network of 121 affiliated organisations. Also striving for greater effectiveness, the NLC would link into the broader vision of the Reconstruction and Development Programme to contribute towards economic development of the communities and establishment of a participatory democratic culture within society.
With a proper system of adult education now in place in all nine regions, the government has appointed a policy development commission to look into curriculum development and expanding the delivery of night schools. The NLC had expanded up to 80 percent its operations in the rural areas of the Northern Province, North West, KwaZulu/Natal, Eastern Cape and Western Cape. It has encouraged every community to have a programme for adult basic education, Naidoo says.
Is the media too hard on government?
An independent study of government’s profile in the media finds some good and bad news for the state – and the media, a correspondent reports.
Almost half the coverage of government in the media is “neutral”, while 30 percent is positive and 20 percent negative. This was one of the findings of a study conducted by the Media Monitoring Project from April to June this year.
The study, which was commissioned by task team on government communication, monitored all SABC television and radio stations, 12 daily newspapers, 6 national weeklies and 10 regional or local weekly newspapers. “What this means is that the vast majority of media coverage was not damaging to government, however it must be added that certain coverage remains more strongly in the public’s memory than positive government news,” the report says.
Among departments, the president’s office received the most coverage. This was due, the report says, to the high news value of the president, his accessibility. his willingness to entertain informal questions from the media and the responsiveness of his office to media approaches and queries.
The activities of the Constitutional Assembly were the most successful single media “event” during the monitoring period. “The negotiations themselves, the ready access to senior spokespersons and political leaders as opposed to limited press releases and the excellent media liaison of the Constitutional Assembly media team all contributed to a substantial amount of positive coverage,” it said.
Among newspapers, the Sowetan was found to be the most positive in its coverage of government, with the Citizen carrying the most coverage of government. The daily newspapers in the Western Cape and Gauteng generally carried similar amounts of government coverage, but dailies in other regions carried less, “suggesting that their distance from the centres of government influenced their coverage”.
The survey found that SABC television was generally either positive or neutral. Few negative items were recorded in the three months that monitoring took place. “This does not translate into unquestioning and total support for the government. The former propaganda role of the SABC news has been challenged by the establishment of editorial independence and by sizable negative items on government in bulletins,” the report says.
Radio news coverage, although generally positive, was broader and less coherent, serving a more diverse audience. The size of SABC radio, which has 670 news broadcasts a day reaching between 15 and 18 million people, meant that editors had less control over individual bulletins.
The survey found that Afrikaans newspapers reflected a shift away from National Party support towards “Afrikaner centred issues”, especially over language, education and the economy. The Afrikaans papers monitored, with the exception of Rapport reflected a substantial amount of government coverage which was not unfavourable. This was a reflection of the resources available to them, the reports says. Rapport was often heavy in its criticism of government, and it usually included a propaganda piece in each edition, the report says. It found that Rapport articles almost never sought a government response to allegations but chose rather to interview the National Party or the Freedom Front for information.
How departments rate
Government departments which received high amounts of media coverage during the study by the Media Monitoring Project of government communications included the presidency, the constitutional assembly and the finance ministry. Other ministries with relatively high coverage included foreign affairs and education. The ministries of public works, public service and administration, housing, home affairs, agriculture, land affairs, labour and the deputy presidents received relatively low levels of coverage. According to the study levels of coverage vary for a number of reasons, including the newsworthiness of the work in which different departments are involved – “its perceived importance and relevance to target audiences” – and the nature of the media profile adopted by different ministries in their articulation of policy and transformation issues.
‘Chief rep’ with a mission
Ruth Mompati is leaving South Africa again. But, as Khensani Makhubela discovered, this time its on a different mission.
The newly-appointed ambassador for Switzerland, Ruth Mompati, sees her post as a challenge, although she represented the ANC in the United Kingdom during her years in exile. “My being ambassador to Switzerland and my being [ANC] chief representative in the United Kingdom are two different representations. In the United Kingdom I was representing a political organisation that was leading the struggle throughout South Africa and outside South Africa, trying to fight apartheid,” Mompati says.
“Now I am a representative of the South African government and of the people of South Africa. I am representing a country that is going through changes, a country that is developing and growing.” Mompati says the challenges in her new post are that she has to represent South Africa to the best of her ability. She wants to make sure that the world recognises and appreciates South Africa, and for many countries to come and invest in South Africa, especially Switzerland which has a strong currency.
South Africa is among the few countries that have women as ambassadors. Mompati is one of the seven women ambassadors for the country. “Our government is gender friendly. For the first time there are more women in parliament than there have ever been in the South African parliament or in the world. We are moving forward and we should involve women in different key positions of government departments. We should not end with these seven women,” Mompati says.
Before receiving her new post, Mompati served in the parliamentary education portfolio committee, which she found very interesting as it brought her closer to her constituency. She says Vryburg, the town where she was born in the Northern Cape, has a high rate of illiteracy. Her appointment in the committee was an answer to the people of Vryburg, because then she would go back and tell them what should be done and to find advice to give to her constituency. “It was a difficult time because we had to change the education department that tried to make blacks slaves. Actually it was not only the education department where we met with challenges,” Mompati says.
She explains that the portfolio committee worked very hard to change the department and the ANC study group of the committee worked closely with the minister. That is why it managed to get a number of very important bills through to parliament. One of them was on education policy which National Party, Democratic Party, Inkatha Freedom Party and other small parties tried to resist. “We were also faced with one major challenge. Our first challenge was when we were appointed members of parliament. We did not know what was expected of us. We did not know what we were supposed to do and that in itself was a problem. We had to sit down and come up with a strategy to see that what we relate and talk about in parliament we could in fact implement it in our constituencies,” Mompati says.
Having experienced a great deal of hardship caused by apartheid, Mompati will do anything to change this country for the better. She has an impressive history of political involvement in Soweto where she moved to after getting married in 1952 and in exile. From 1962 to 1976 Mompati worked in different departments within the ANC. From 1976 to 1979 she was the South African delegate on the secretariat of the Women’s International Democratic Federation in Berlin. She was one of the two main organisers of the 1956 march, when 20,000 women marched on the Union Building in Pretoria. She was also one of the two women to be included in the 34-person team for the famous “talks-about-talks” in 1990.
“It was a time where one had mixed feelings. I was happy I was finally coming home after 27 years ,but at the same time I was afraid that the National Party would do something to me despite our agreements on certain issues during the Harare Declaration. It was the same National Party. It had not changed at all,” Mompati recalls. She explains emotionally, “the courage of the people held the struggle to the end. The welcome I got melted my fears away and when I went to Seichoko where I was born, a township in Vryburg, I knew I was finally at home and this time I was home to stay for good.” “This time I am going on a different encounter. It is a pity I am leaving my constituency, but this time I will be representing South Africa on a different mission.”
New law to protect Gauteng consumers
The Gauteng legislature is busy finalising a ground-breaking law to protect consumers from unethical business practices. Mziwakhe Hlangani reports.
The proliferation of unethical businesses has prompted the Gauteng provincial government to develop new consumer protection laws. Gauteng provincial legislature member and economic affairs and finance committee chairperson Andrew Feinstein says the rapid breeding of corrupt business dealers throughout the country would soon be out of control if provincial and local government failed to ensure effective protection laws.
Gauteng is the first province to come up with draft legislation that will protect the consumers against criminal swindlers. But, Feinstein says, it will be useless if the legislation is not implemented soon in all provinces. “There is no point of bringing the legislation exclusively to Gauteng, as the culprits would pack up and go to Mpumalanga and other areas to ply their unethical business practice,” he says. Within the next few months all provinces will have to pass similar legislation to ensure coordination between provinces – “information swopping” – to identify those responsible for abusing the consumers. Trade and Industry minister Alec Erwin would adjust the existing national legislation to provide a framework, norms and standards across the country. Each province would pass their own legislation within that framework. Since information and knowledge on consumer rights was “pitiful,” education was of prime importance. The idea was to set up a network of institutions to redress the historical irregularities against individual consumers. A toothless consumer council watchdog in Pretoria was just a trifle, and had done little even for the elite class of the society, Feinstein said.
Through the creation of provincial and local consumer offices, it is hoped education about consumer rights issues would flow into the communities. Feinstein said the provision of institutions, comprised of consumer offices and consumer courts in provinces, were to be established, where people could bring grievances to be investigated by the office before being sent to the court for adjudication.
The new Consumer Affairs (Harmful Business Practices) Bill will authorise and encourage local authorities to set up consumer advice offices. Although it would not get involved in disputes between major businesses, it will look into any kind of abuse from small, medium to big businesses, giving protection to powerless individuals in the communities. Local authorities were in the process of drafting by-laws regulating unfair retailing among street hawkers and informal businesses to be promulgated when consumer advice offices were in place. While looking at ways to ensure communities were satisfactorily protected against business abuse, the committee is also investigating technical capacities of the law to redress informal sector dealings with sometimes unethical big business. “At this point, we are looking at addressing the capacity of our investigators to investigate the unscrupulous bigger businesses who supply small street entrepreneurs with faulty merchandise. “The public hearings have already been held. The economic affairs sub-committee has also dealt with draft Bill in detail, looking at trivial changes, before it is referred back to the [provincial] parliamentary standing committee to look at the proposals to be adopted,” he said. It will then be referred to the full provincial legislature for further debate and adjustment before being voted into law. The Gauteng premier will have to sign it and gazette it, probably at the beginning of October.
At least six consumer offices for Gauteng are being set up in Johannesburg South, Johannesburg North, Soweto, Pretoria, East Rand and West Rand. Among the tasks of the provincial consumer office would be to facilitate the establishment of consumer advice offices at local government,to ensure patrons could get all the support, general information and mediation in a single office. Feinstein says the draft Bill has received very supportive responses, in both written and oral evidence from individual consumers and existing consumer structures, including consumer journalists and political parties. The finance committee is also looking at an equitable approach to employees of these unethical businesses, who might be disadvantaged if such unlawful business operations were forced to close down. “Although, the plight of employees of such businesses… is not our concern, in case of the winding up of such businesses, employees would have preference before the company’s creditors,” he says.
‘Greed’ breeds taxi violence
Violence continues to plague the taxi industry. Khensani Makhubela spoke to some drivers and commuters about what can be done to stop it.
Sam Mbuva, a taxi driver, is very concerned about violence in the taxi industry. He says the taxi violence should just come to an end because it is barbaric and it is uncalled for: “Jealousy is the main factor contributing to taxi violence. It is unfair that some taxi owners own more than twenty taxis. The very same taxi owners put all their taxis in one taxi rank and that deprives the ones that own one or two taxis to have a say in the ranks. In fact it brings conflict among us taxi drivers not owners.” The drivers for the taxi owners with more taxis stick together and they do not let the other drivers stop for customers in the streets. They send them to the taxi ranks where they know that they will wait almost the whole day without passengers, he says. “This is unfair because at the end of the day I am expected to deliver. My employer wants money just like the employer of the taxi driver who stops me from picking up people in the streets,” says Mbuva. “We have to have an administration, administered from one office by neutral and elected people. An executive should be put to make sure that those who start violence should be punished accordingly. We can’t keep on revenging, we have to solve our problems peacefully,” he says.
Bonani Mnisi (not his real name) agrees with Mbuva: “People are very greedy. They want to make more money and deprive others from making the same money. Every taxi owner should own two taxis at least and make more or less the same profit. There should not be people with twenty taxis because this leads to violence.” “The industry should belong to the government. Now that it belongs to individuals there are problems and as long as it remains in their hands the violence will continue. Taxi owners have no idea what rules and regulations are. All they know is to make money, so violence is their other strategy of making money,” Mnisi says.
Nomovovo Nkosi says the cause of taxi violence is that the taxi industry is too informal. “It needs to be formalised so that they can have some sort of control. The industry should introduce rules and regulations, it must have a code of conduct just like any other formal industry,” he says. “The government can’t even subsidise them because they are informal, who will the government give money to because even their associations are improper,” says Nkosi. “Taxi drivers and owners need training in management, administration, communication and advance driving, and this will reduce the violence and it will make them to be able to deal with their passengers,” he says.
“The government should introduce an association which will control all the taxis like Putco buses. The violence in the taxi industry lies with taxi owners because most of them own more than ten taxis and this makes them greedy because they want to own all the taxi ranks and routes,” Anna Ngubane says. She adds: “These people need to be taxed just like any ordinary citizen. They should get their way straight and end violence before they can be subsidised by the government.”
Isabel Ntuli says it is unfortunate that innocent people also die in the taxi violence. “This violence is bad. It should stop. Commuters should come together and boycott taxis as long as they continue fighting,” she says. “The government should intervene, it should try to subsidise the taxi industry. Maybe they will stop fighting because they will have another source to assist the industry financially,” Ntuli says.
Mary Moloi agrees with Ntuli. “We should boycott taxis maybe they will begin to rectify their mistakes. Buses should be reintroduced, we never used to have problems with them and we travelled safely and also without insults from the drivers,” she says. “Taxi people only care about money. They do not care about the lives of the people. They are always in a hurry and they are involved in many accidents which caused us and are still causing us many lives,” Moloi says.
“There are many unnecessary associations in the taxi industry. They should just form one organisation which will work hand in hand with the government. At the moment these people are irresponsible because they don’t care about others but [only] themselves and money,” Dollar Mangena says.
Ben Masuku says the government should regulate the industry. “The drivers should be given proper training so that they are able to deal with people and each other, and this will reduce the violence or eventually end it,” he says.
Fikile Nxobo says the taxi offices should give proper instructions to taxi drivers and owners. “There should be one rule for all taxi associations, unlike now each association has its own rules. How do you expect these people to understand each other?”
Nxobo says. “The taxi industry should introduce passenger’s safety benefits, maybe if they start paying for that they will begin to value our lives as well as theirs,” Nxobo says.
“Personally I hate taxis, the taxi industry should be abolished and buses should be reintroduced. These people don’t care a bit about human life, money is the only thing that matters to them,” William Tepanyekga says. He further says, “This is a private business and as long as the taxi owners remain with more than two taxis, violence will continue.” Tepanyekga says all associations should be amalgamated into one association and have one committee which will look into the safety of passengers and give drivers benefits such as training, medical aid and safety.
SA’s Olympic team still has some way to run
On the Olympic learning curve, South Africa has made some progress since the 1992 Barcelona games. But, writes Phil Nzimande, there’s still some distance to go.
The 1996 Atlanta Olympics Games have come and gone, and South Africans can pride themselves on the five medals they won. South African team’s performance was generally good. In swimming, South Africa did exceptionally well with Penny Heyns winning two gold medals, and Marianne Kriel winning a bronze medal. Another sport which did well in Atlanta was hockey. The men’s team managed to reach the quarter finals. The success of Hezekiel Sepeng and Josia Thugwane in the middle and long distance field has given South Africa the opportunity to reestablish itself in the world of running. Thugwane was the first to cross the finishing line in the marathon. Sepeng had to struggle from behind, locked between four runners, to come second and win silver in the 800 metres.
Despite all these achievements, the South African team’s performance was marred by injuries during training in Atlanta and during the games themselves. South Africa’s pole-vault specialist Ockert Brits had to pull out of the competition because of an injury. Elana Meyer abandoned her marathon run even before reaching the halfway mark, also because of an injury. Whether these and other injuries were known to the team’s doctors and management before the team left for Atlanta is still to be answered. The South African team management and the National Olympic Committee of South Africa will be well advised not to spend money on relatively unknown sports like archery and fencing. Given the performance of these sports, it is clear that there was very little chance of winning any medal on these events. It should also be noted that South Africa’s performance in Sydney in 2000 will have an impact on its ability to be the hosts in Cape Town in 2004 – if it wins the bid. No one wants to be a losing host.
Monuments, culture and heritage in a democratic SA
Heritage Day should be used to rectify South Africa’s racist and exclusive past, Khensani Makhubela writes.
As South Africa celebrates Heritage Day on 24 September, the role and function of heritage sites and monuments will come under the spotlight. In countries all over the world, statues and other monuments are part of a nation’s history. They help people to remember great people and events.
In South Africa, however, 97 percent of monuments commemorate white people and their history, and are very often a symbol of racism. The arts, culture, science and technology ministry is talking to historical groups, museums and community groups on how to build new monuments in a democratic South Africa.
“Heritage should be our freedom, freedom should be measured as equal rights,” says the arts, culture, science and technology portfolio committee chairperson Wally Serote. “Heritage Day, 24 September, reflects what we have achieved through the struggle of South Africa,” he says. Serote says there are still many problems of heritage to be tackled. “Each time we celebrate heritage day we should tackle the problem of tribalism, racism and sexism in practice, not rhetorically. The question of nation building should be a solution to tackle these problems,” he says. “As free people we should do away with the word ‘grassroots’. It should not exist anymore in our vocabulary because we are talking of equal rights. South Africa should be enjoyed by everyone black or white, and our heritage should reflect everybody.” “Our museums should reflect our heritage and the monuments of this country. The task and duties of the arts, culture, science and technology ministry is to correct the distortions of the history and politics of this country,” Serote says.
The ministry is looking at the manner in which African culture will be integrated into the school curriculum. Serote says the country has a lot of literature written in African languages but not many South Africans are exposed to it. “I feel very poor and ashamed of myself because I cannot read a Venda or Tsonga book and this is a challenge for me because it is part of our heritage,” he says. He further says that the government’s challenge is to see how to emancipate its heritage, how to get access to all languages without leaving other people out. He says the media is not playing its role properly in bringing the people of South Africa together. He says it marginalises people who do not speak English or Afrikaans. “I thought the Pan African Language Board is going to contribute to the emancipation of our languages but it is very slow. How do we enter to issues like crime to people who don’t speak English or Afrikaans because everything is always said in these two languages. I am calling on the Pan African language Board to give back our heritage day,” says Serote. “Heritage Day should not mean to wear Dashiki and play African music. It should mean the emancipation of our heritage. Hopefully the art, culture and heritage portfolio committee will engage on that.” “It is a shame to see media condemning circumcision in this manner. Circumcision is our heritage. We should not condemn it. Instead we should ask the government, the ministry of arts and culture and ministry of health as to how we can enter the 21st century standard for social development. It is our heritage that made us proud and outstanding as Africans,” he says.