/ 2 September 2008

Tutu: One nation, one braai

What are vegetarians supposed to do on National Braai Day later this month?

”They can stand and watch,” said Archbishop Desmond Tutu on Tuesday, as he poked a large steak with his tongs.

But there was a more Christian response from Jan Scannell, head of the Braai4Heritage initiative.

”Eat mealies,” he prompted Tutu. ”We must encourage them to eat mealies.”

Tutu was cooking the meat to launch Braai4Heritage, of which he is patron.

The initiative ran into flak last year when it was celebrated on Heritage Day, September 24.

The National Heritage Council declared last year that the braaing trivialised the public holiday, and would ”have a negative outcome on the consciousness of South Africans, especially the young who need to be made aware of the value of their heritage in relation to other cultures as we build a unified nation”.

Braai4Heritage said this year it had received the council’s endorsement. The poster for this month’s big braai shows a perfectly cooked T-bone steak in the shape of the African continent.

”We’re going to have this wonderful thing on the 24th of this month … when we all gather round one fire,” Tutu said at Tuesday’s launch.

”It’s a fantastic thing, a very simple idea. Irrespective of your politics, of your culture, of your race, of your whatever, hierdie ding doen ons saam [this thing we do together] … just South Africans doing one thing together, and recognising that we are a fantastic nation.

”Here is one thing that can unite us irrespective of all of the things that are trying to tear us apart.”

He paused, tore off a morsel of meat and popped it in his mouth.

”Dis lekker. Waar is die pap, man? [It’s nice, where’s the porridge] This is very good.”

He declined a spot of Klipdrift brandy — one of the sponsors of the initiative — and Coca-Cola, saying he was allergic to alcohol ”at the moment”.

Scannell said in a statement that celebrating heritage was important in the preservation of national identity, particularly among the youth.

”Countries with strong social cohesion become strong nations,” he said. ”This is why it is important to celebrate our common national heritage through truly South African features. And what is more South African than shisa nyama? [braaiing]” – Sapa