South Africa’s past is one of a deeply divided society filled with suffering, injustice and a disregard for human rights.
The Truth and Reconciliation Commission was a moment in history when, in the spirit of forgiveness and reconciliation, the victims of apartheid came face to face with their persecutors.
The TRC represented a dialogue on a national scale for peace and reconciliation.
This dialogue between victim and oppressor took place in our public spaces. It aimed to move us from a place of vengeance to one of peace and forgiveness.
But where are we today?
We are destroying 100 year old statues and I fail to understand how this will help us.
Surely we must have greater battles to fight? And surely we must stare the mistakes of our past in the face so that we never repeat them?
Vandalising statues will not unburden us of our history. It only provides fuel to the fires of racial nationalists on our left and right. We saw this in Pretoria with Steve Hofmeyr and Julius Malema’s followers clashing.
But those of us who believe in a non-racial centre know that the only way we will change things in this country is if we unite around shared values.
And to do that we have to talk more as a nation.
We cannot erase our painful past, scars and all.
Instead of vandalising statues maybe it’s time we spoke about the real issues holding us back.
Anger directed at statues makes no sense. Look at our society today!
Our education and health systems remain fundamentally unequal.
A lack of opportunity has left an entire generation of young South Africans without hope.
The lights go off in our homes almost daily and we struggle more each month with higher food, electricity and transport costs.
Our streets are overrun with criminality and our young people are calling foreigners the enemy.
If we had the opportunities to succeed would we really make immigrants the enemy, when they have probably fled even worse circumstances?
This debate needs to focus on the causes behind the anger that people are experiencing.
We have to ask if people are angry at statues, and what they represent, or at the despair they are experiencing more than two decades into freedom.
Vandalising statues detracts from the conversation we should be having. Let’s have a conversation about every person getting the same opportunities to be the best they can be – irrespective of race or social standing.
President Nelson Mandela said: “Let us never be unmindful of the terrible past from which we come – using that memory not as a means to keep us shackled to the past in a negative manner, but rather as a joyous reminder of how far we have come and how much we have achieved.”
Our journey has been a hopeful one, a miracle, a shining example amongst the countries of the world.
As a 21 year old country we must not only learn from our painful history, we must take ownership of our future.
Let us build new statues that celebrate the unsung heroes. And let’s understand the ones we have already.
But most importantly let us now rise up like responsible citizens – let us together take up the challenges of building our country, let us build our Rainbow Nation, in which we all have equal opportunities and prospects of a shared future
John Moodey MPL
DA Gauteng Provincial Leader
082 960 3743