Heritage should mean more than pap ’n wors

2010-09-25 12:57

Much has been made of the “different” ways in which South Africans choose to celebrate their public ­holidays. While some are only too happy to celebrate in the ­blazing heat at a political rally, others would rather be found under an umbrella on the beach.

If the latter group of South Africans happens to be white, the idea of passing up the rally has taken on a ­pejorative connotation.

Politicians trying to score points claim (with increasing regularity each year) that what one does with one’s public holidays is a barometer of personal patriotism.

Black people attend relevant political rallies and white people go shopping in air-conditioned malls, so the cliché goes.

And yet who could blame those who would rather stay at home than stand for hours on end listening to droning ­speeches?

The reward at the end of the day (unlike the famous ad) is not refreshment, but a Made-in-China T-shirt in ANC colours, a piece of wors in a (stale) roll and some B-grade kwaito.

If those who govern us really want South Africans to go out in their numbers and celebrate Heritage Day, or any other public holiday for that matter, it’s high time they upped the ante.

No more lousy T-shirts and dreary speeches would be a good start, as well as ceasing to hold ­rallies packed with platitudes and praise for the successes of the ruling party.

A glance at the national days in other countries just as heterogeneous as ours shows that the nation rallies around a ­single symbol or event.

Whether it’s the birthday of a monarch or patron saint, or the day a declaration was signed, these diverse and multicultural societies have at least one thing on which they all agree was a good day in their history.

With the first democratic election ­already a national holiday and Mandela Day already declared, it requires some creative thinking as to what this symbol or event should be.

It’s debatable what constitutes heritage in South Africa. And yet, surely, centuries of history cannot be reduced to a coil of Grabouw boerewors sizzling over the coals.

Given the country’s plethora of ­languages, hues and cultures, it would be unrealistic to please all of the people, all of the time.

And yet one would be hard-pressed not to find a South African who is proud of our Bill of Rights and Constitution, which have forever changed the lives of millions.

Would our leaders not consider ­orienting Heritage Day towards celebrating the signing of our Constitution?

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