In the 1951 Union of South Africa Census it was found that the country's population was constituted by 10 029 763 non-whites and 2 641 689 whites which brought the overall populace to 12 67 14 52. This small number of people commemorated in their own way holidays that included Van Riebeeck, Union Day, Queen's Birthday, Settler's, Kruger Day, Day of Covenant and some insulting milestones that darkies were forced to memorize their anthemns and war-cries. Obviously, a large portion of the 10 million non-whites (Bantu) did not take part in the commemorations, and surprisingly the two million were happy and found it acceptable and worthy of a braaivleis and mampoer.
On Heritage Day last year 45 million South Africans, united in their diversity converged at different places to celebrate an all inclusive non-racial milestone. Quite interesting, South Africans strongly believe that all races have a common heritage, including those self-exiled in the vaderland of Orania. The Oxford Dictionary is frank; "heritage n. that which has or may be inherited, inherited circumstances or benefits"
If anyone was wondering what is it that is being inherited by all South Africans they need not look further than the founding preamble of the country's Constitution which starts with "We, the People of South Africa recognise the injustice of the past". With such a recognition that the past was bad, it becomes an issue of whether all South Africans are prepared to inherit and recognise the need to establish a just society. Adults must forget their prejudice because they have already messed things up but to think about the kind of society they would like their children and grandchildrent to grow up in.
'Just' means "giving proper consideration to the claims of everyone concerned". In the context of Mpumalanga it might mean giving back the name Mashishing to the people of formerly Lydenburg, renaming Blyde River to its original Sepulana name of Motlatse. MaPulana had names for Nelspruit (Lepulanama), White River (Meetsemhlophe), Pilgrims' Rest (Maworabyang) and many other areas beyond the Crocodile River. And 'just' means recognising that reality. VhaTsonga also had own names for other areas which suggests the whole rebranding of the province of Mpumalanga to reflect its current reality and historical background.
While such are viewed as positive developments there is what is perceived to be malignant fluffing of the law in the quest for political correctness. Spokesperson for the national DAC Mr Sandile Memela was at pains to convince many South Africans that the changing of formerly Johannesburg International Airport to OR Tambo International Airport was a step towards creating a common heritage for blacks and whites. Writing in an influencial Sunday newspaper Memela was unapologetic about his boss' intentions to justify the injustices of the past. A sneak survey conducted by SABC's Morning Live found that 'many' people opposed the changing of the name and Minister of Arts and Culture Dr Pallo Jordan was quick to let anchor Leanne Mannas know that only the privileged few in South Africa had access to the internet and cellphones that can send thousands of smss and emails and the the real majority did not take part in the survey and that Ekurhuleni Metro conducted public participation meetings with the people whose opinions matter because they came to the meetings but did not hide behind high walls writing long daming emails. But Jo'burg Airport was Jan Smuts before and no one was complaining. And Jan Smuts was a white General, a part of a long list of illegitimate rulers.
While the proposal to rename the airport came from the Ekurhuleni Metro Council it is fascinating how people took the issue to heart. Individuals spoken to had reservations not because they felt OR did not deserve it but that often politicians are made to be more important than ordinary people. Questions were asked about why couldn't they name facilities like airports after people who contributed to aviation like the first black pilot to fly commercial or the deceased Gabriel Ndabandaba who was a celebrated young black pilot? A young person so as to encourage them to see aviation as a field to follow - believing that they'll have facilities named after them as well.
Why can't engineers' be the ones whose names are reflected on bridges and roads, academics at universities while military people like Chris Hani and Joe Modise at military installations. Arguments are, wouldn't it make better sense if the Nelspruit SANDF Support Base was named after Hani while his street in Kanyamazane is named after a local resident who might not have been a politician but a simple educator or environmentalist?
Mpumalanga has many such cases of objections, some due to the ethnic diversity of the people. The same can't be said about Pretoria or Tshwane whereby the intention to remove the Afrikaner leader Paul Kruger and replace him with Chief Tshwane was opposed to the bitter end until the council settled for renaming the outlying area as Tshwane and the nucleus remaining Pretoria. And poor Tshwane found comfort infront of the City Hall where he was vandalised a few weeks later. That did not spare him from being vandalised by people who still see South Africa through the eye of a 1951 Census.
The issue has always been consultation. One academic, when asked why local government politicians are so obsessed with renaming instead of name restoration, and with mostly African National Congress stalwarts answered, "They all want to look good in the face of the top brass at Luthuli House to qualify for redeployment".
Still it is not interesting when a place that was called either Mhala, Mafemani or Ga-Bereta and was in the 1980s renamed Dwarsloop has someone opposing the restoration of its original indigenous name. "What's a dwarsloop?", a resident asked, since Mafemani is the name of a popular Shangaan king, while Mhala is a bushbuck.
Aime Cesaire wrote in Return to my Native Land, "and no race possess the monopoly of beauty, of intelligence, of freedom. There is a place for all at the rendezvous of victory". Hoping there are times when the much-hyped rainbow nation speaks the same language - the language of rain and prosperity.
WHAT IS AN ENCOMPASSING DESTINY FOR ALL SOUTH AFRICANS?