Mandla Nkomfe is the Deputy Chairperson of the Ahmed Kathrada Foundation. In this piece, he calls on South Africans to reimagine heritage, centered on values of social justice, non-racialism, solidarity
and common humanity
A TIME TO RETHINK OUR IDEAS OF HERITAGE
Nationally, September is the month in which South Africans celebrate our heritage as a people. Post-apartheid dispensation sought to cultivate a positive disposition amongst people towards the future of South Africa. In celebrating our traditions, culture (material and spiritual), and in commemorating achievements and heroic deeds, from our diverse backgrounds, we contribute in forging a common national identity. Inscribed in our quest for a common national identity are our hopes and
aspirations. The Constitution of the Republic of South Africa and the Bill of Rights, which are the cornerstone of our democracy, provide the principles and values that should underpin our approach to heritage. In
this regard, emphasis is placed on recognizing our unity in diversity, healing the divisions of the past and establishing a society based on democratic values, social justice and fundamental human rights.
A social justice dimension to our understanding of heritage is required. One that is inspired by yearnings for solidarity and inclusive prosperity. A values-based approach to our common understanding of culture and heritage is required. Our Constitution provides a framework for how
we should understand heritage and what it should mean for South Africans. Sadly, South Africa has come to be marred, tainted by a shameful heritage of corruption, state capture, gender-based violence, misogyny and xenophobia. These are misrepresentations of who we
are, what we are capable of and where we are going. We have a deep heritage of progressive values, such as fighting oppression and domination in whatever guise it presents itself. The anti-apartheid struggle was inherently a movement to promote social justice, non-racialism, solidarity and common humanity. Our Constitution obliges the state in its various permutations to act morally and ethically towards its people. The experience of corruption in the handling of personal protective equipment (PPE) and misappropriation of Covid-19 funds demonstrates a loss of humanity or ubuntu amongst public servants. This represents state failure, which seems to move further and further away from its moral
and ethical basis. It is a rapture of the RDP of the soul. We can still go back to the basis of our social contract and accordingly locate our conceptions of heritage in the struggle to create a more humane society. We have an obligation to build and leave a values-based heritage for generations to come after us. The Constitution enjoins us to build a heritage of anti-corruption, institution building and commitment to eradicating poverty in our communities. In this regard, we require compatriots who have a passion to make our country a better place to live in while rebuilding the interest of so many who have lost hope. Part of the commitment to a values-
based approach to heritage should see us going back to activism that prioritizes the work needed to achieve the common good. This requires that we all reignite the passion and responsibility to work for national and personal interests. In celebrating our heritage, we must not forget where we come from and work toward fulfilling the promises of the Constitution.

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