The writer says the abandoning of the apartheid flag and the racist history it represents is one of the biggest victories we should celebrate today.
The writer says the abandoning of the apartheid flag and the racist history it represents is one of the biggest victories we should celebrate today.
Supporters hold a former South African flag as slain white supremacist leader Eugene Terre’Blanche’s coffin arrives at a church in Ventersdorp in 2010.
Supporters hold a former South African flag as slain white supremacist leader Eugene Terre’Blanche’s coffin arrives at a church in Ventersdorp in 2010.
OPINION: As we grapple with the issue of the notorious old South African apartheid flag and its divisive impact on nation- building, we should not forget that the past is dead and is not coming back.

No matter what anybody says, the apartheid flag will never, ever represent this country, again.

The major focus on the so-called Black Monday distracts us from paying attention to the brutality and violence of man killing man in a new society that we are trying to build.

What a wasted opportunity for all of us; when we should channel energies and time to continue with the march to a better society where all life is treated as sacred.

With all their shortcomings, the farm owners and their exploited workers were, in principle, committed to highlighting the violence, murder and theft that is running amok in the land, claiming the lives of those that feed this nation, among others.

Above all, the march should be seen for what it was: a Save Our Souls and lives cry from men, women and children who are sick and tired of being sick and tired of being killed for no good reason.

But the brandishing and waving of the apartheid flag takes us many steps back and can only remind us about where we all come from and never want to return.

In its own unique way, the brandishing and waving of the apartheid flag should teach us to make a distinction between what is our heritage from the past and what is not.

It has been said that those who do not learn from history will repeat past mistakes.

There is reason to believe that, except for a lunatic fringe, the majority of South African citizens, both black and white, know where we come from and do not want to go back there.

For example, on October 10 it was Paul Kruger Day. But for the last few years, there were almost no Afrikaner people who whipped out their vierkleur to hanker after the days of the old Transvaal Republic.

This speaks of a great number of Afrikaners, if we must single them out, that have left the past behind and are moving the country forward to embrace the slow but sure psycho-mental transformation to build a society that belongs to all who live in it.

Thus, after the Black Monday march, all South Africans should take the opportunity to reflect, at an individual and community level, on the significant but difficult life-changing transformation that South Africa has been experiencing since the dawn of this new era.

It is also true that various individuals, organisations, communities and sectors of our society have a positive story to tell about the progress made since 1994 in promoting a spirit of reconciliation and unity in this inherently racist country.

No matter what detractors, including those who brandish the old flag, say, this is a different country to what it was before the dawn of democracy.

The abandoning of the apartheid flag and all the racist history it represents is one of the biggest victories we should celebrate today.

In fact, accepting that apartheid is dead, making efforts to redefine the soul of this nation, receptiveness to an all-embracing identity, promoting a culture of respect for all life - irrespective of a person’s colour, background or creed - and condemning violence, murder, rape and theft should rally us together.

But in some fringe corners, there will always be a few that resist and wish to spoil things for everyone by projecting a distorted picture of the South Africa we are building.

This distraction is what has seen many citizens wrestle over who belongs to this new nation and who does not.

Difficult and challenging as this is, people must not be discouraged. This, too, shall pass.

This is all part of the process of redefining ourselves to implement the ideals and principles of this constitutional democracy.

There is enough evidence to have hope, faith and love that South Africans, presumably, understand who they are, where they come from and where they are going.

We have come a long way as a nation.

Supporters hold a former South African flag as slain white supremacist leader Eugene Terre’Blanche’s coffin arrives at a church in Ventersdorp in 2010.


Perhaps it is time we make it clear that the discarded apartheid flag is not and will never be part of our new identity and heritage, that which we have selected from the past to take us into a bright new future.

The old flag is part of a tragic history that evokes agony and pain as it represents the legacy of colonialism and apartheid.

At the centre of the debate and wrangling about the apartheid flag is the contestation between progressives and verkramptes or conservatives on what should shape the character and identity of the South Africa we want to build today.

Let us be very clear that the colonial and apartheid past and its legacy have been defeated. It will never, ever come back.

What we witnessed on Black Monday is part of the death of the old to make way for the new. It is never easy.

Just like the marking of Republic Day and Paul Kruger Day have since disappeared from the pages of our cultural calendar, the apartheid flag is destined for the dustbin of history.

It will, ultimately, die a natural death effected by the strong winds of change sweeping away everything that does not belong to this growing nation.

There is a new way of life and thinking that is being born. It is a process.

We just have to keep our eyes on the prize: we have the bright colourful flag that is one of the most admired and recognisable in the whole world.

It is a serious indictment that we still have people that have uncritically imbibed the primitive values of apartheid divisiveness that are alien to the new nation and have no immediate relevance to other people.

Everyone who is sane knows that the apartheid flag is a symbol of degradation and dehumanisation.

There are too few Afrikaners that would want to return to this primitive and savage way of life.

The advent of Nelson Mandela and the philosophy of the rainbow nation have, after just over two decades, certainly galvanised and created opportunities for South Africans to turn their back on the past.

The Black Monday march was not about promoting the old flag or reviving apartheid clap-trap, except for delusional people who want to believe blatant lies.

It was about South Africans - black and white, land owners and the dispossessed - who wish to uphold and promote a constitutional democracy that protects all life as sacred.

Rightfully, we should define our future not by what holds us back, but that which takes us forward. Focusing on a lunatic fringe does not move us forward.

In fact, we who live today stand at the vast pyramid of African self-determination and struggle, slowly but surely accumulated through the many long struggles against colonialism and apartheid.

We are the living link, the African heritage that they have ever dreamed, thought out, fought and died for.

Today when we are on the verge of giving the world a human face, it is very important to draw a distinction between a dead past and a bright future.

Let us keep our eyes on the prize and not be distracted by the shenanigans around the old discredited flag.

What happened on Black Monday is not about bringing back a dead past.

* Memela is a journalist, writer, cultural critic and public servant. He writes in his personal capacity.

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