All South Africans must be made to feel part of Heritage Day, even if that meant accepting that some would gather around a braai, an arts and culture deparment official said on Tuesday.
Pakamani Mthembu, the director for living heritage at the department of arts and culture, said it was a “constant complaint from the presidency” that heritage celebrations were shunned by white and Indian South Africans.
“On most national days, the complexion of the people attending [events] is almost the same. On national days, the people from white and Indian communities are very few,” he told Parliament’s arts and culture portfolio committee.
Mthembu said the department had realised — after 16 years — that it had failed to draw South Africans form all races to its events.
“It has been obvious that since our first democratic elections we have not been able to unite South Africans in terms of race, gender and cultural persuasions.
“So we have to look at this problem. Why is it that on national days not all South Africans go to stadiums? Why is it that they go and braai? They are saying ‘no look, this [attending a public event] is not very important for us’.”
The department had therefore thought of changing the structure of events from big rallies in stadiums to smaller events that catered to the tastes and traditions of all South Africans.
“Maybe we should move away from the rally type event … Maybe we should do things differently. Freedom Day and Heritage Day should not be the same. The format is usually the same. There is a rally and then there are political speeches. It might help to move towards more educational orientated commemorations and maybe to localise commemorations so that people can commemorate wherever they are instead of having one huge rally,” he said.
Some ruling party MPs disagreed with Mthembu, saying rallies were essential.
He said the government planned to institutions to organise smaller, more varied events where South Africans would be invited to attend in their traditional clothes, prepare indigenous food and fly their own political colours.
” … Braai is still part of our heritage. It should also be mogodu [tripe]. It should be mashonzha [mopani worms].”
Mthembu said the presidency had asked the department of arts and culture to organise events for all national days.
The department had drawn up a set of proposals and submitted them to the Cabinet. These included inviting the leaders of all political parties represented in Parliament to speak at major events on national days to debunk the perception that these were monopolised by the ANC.
“On all national days all leaders of all political parties will speak,” he said.
“We know that we come from a past where people have not been taught to socialise together. It has been inculcated in our psyche that everyone goes to their own township. So it is very difficult for us to mobilise people in all communities.
“It is very easy to mobilise schools because the younger generation are used to socialising across race, across culture.” – Sapa