South African Cultural Observatory

Executive Direction

BY 30.09.19

Protecting and preserving our heritage infrastructure a gesture to future generations

As we celebrate heritage month, as we visit various heritage sites, as we remember the journey walked and traversed by our forebears, it is wise to take to heart the words of the Spanish philosopher and essayist George Santayana when he said that “those who do not remember their past are condemned to repeat their mistakes, and those who do not read history are doomed to repeat it”. It is often said that a community with no sense of history has no sense of future. It is thus important that we do our best as South Africans to preserve and protect our rich heritage to ensure that generations that come after us are conscious of our history and can use it to build a united and prosperous society.

We must thus commend and encourage the Department of Sport, Arts and Culture for their programme of developing the infrastructure of heritage sites across the country to ensure that the Resistance and Liberation Heritage Route (RLHR) tells the South African story. Not only is this work important for preserving our history, but it increases the potential of attracting economic development and tourism. The liberation heritage route honours those who dedicated their lives to the struggle for liberation in South Africa. The route is expected to comprise a number of sites that express the key aspects of the South African resistance and liberation experience.

World over, there is a positive relationship between successful cultural tourism and well-protected and preserved heritage. In fact the Minister of Tourism, Mmamoloko Kubayi-Ngubane echoed this point when she recently spoke at the event to mark to World Tourism Day held at the Mandela Capture Site. She said “the Mandela generation has bequeathed on us a great gift which we need to nurture not only for South Africans and future generations but for humanity as a whole”.

A monument was erected at the Mandela Capture Site in honour of the late former President Nelson Mandela for his efforts to free South Africans from one of the most vicious systems humanity has ever witnessed. It is a story about how Mandela was captured as he was travelling in disguise as a chauffeur when the apartheid police who had been looking for him for 17 months finally arrested and captured him on the stretch of road near the site. This marked one of the most significant moments and turning point in the resistance against apartheid.

This and many stories of brave men and women who fought against the evil system of apartheid give us a glimpse of where we come from as a people and a country. They are important for our heritage, and monuments such as The Mandela Capture Site help us preserve a collective memory as a nation and teach us what we and future generations should avoid. Heritage is thus not about some distant history with no impact on the present, it is about us, it lives with us and has a direct economic bearing on current and future generations.

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