Let’s get involved and write our true history

2012-02-27 09:43

Freedom Front Plus leader and Deputy Minister of Agriculture Pieter Mulder’s widely criticised remarks on the land question – which he later withdrew – send a message about the dangers of the functional and operational subjectivity of authorities in their own history and experiences.

The country’s liberation fighters could learn a lesson from Mulder’s remarks and get actively involved in writing the history of the liberation struggle in South Africa.

That way, a history based on balancing originality with authority would hardly be distorted. Insensitive and invalid as it is, Mulder’s statement that black “Bantu-speaking” people had no historical claim to 40% of the country could serve as a catalyst for South African writers and “subjects” to author their own history.

The traditional authorities of South African written history, who are predominantly of European origin, could be subjected to a non-objective view of events.

During the colonial and apartheid era, native South Africans were functionally challenged in the sense that they did not have adequate resources to archive their roots and relied on oral history from the elders.

Thus the death of the older generation resulted in a dearth of original history from relevant authorities. Both the functional and operation loopholes created a gap that allowed history to be distorted.

In that sense, Mulder’s remarks cannot be valid, since they lack originality and hinge on the authority of the non-objective historians.

One can therefore safely warn that if the South African freedom fighters do not participate actively and dominate in the writing of the liberation struggle while they are still alive, they risk being viewed and recorded as the terrorists some history books suggest they are.

Such a view could confuse the future generation and lead them not to appreciate the sacrifices that their forefathers made to ensure their political liberation and economic livelihood.

It is high time that the country’s military veterans and liberation fighters of Umkhonto weSizwe, the African People’s Liberation Army and the Azanian Liberation Army start producing peer-reviewed volumes of their history and experiences.

For example, there is a dearth of academic literature on demobilisation and reintegration of the ex-combatants into South African civic society, yet members of these liberation movements are still alive.

Though it would appear that Mulder nearly opened a can of worms with his subjective remarks, he has subconsciously challenged the natives to get actively involved in the production of written material for future generations and academic purposes.

» Dr Ndayi is a lecturer in the department of international relations at the University of the Witwatersrand

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