Prominent delegates, artists, actors and poets at the first Inaugural Heritage Expo Media Launch at Freedom Park, Pretoria. Picture: Abigail Moyo
Prominent delegates, artists, actors and poets at the first Inaugural Heritage Expo Media Launch at Freedom Park, Pretoria. Picture: Abigail Moyo

Finding common ground in the face of adversity

By Kevin Ritchie Time of article published Sep 21, 2019

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Next Tuesday is Heritage Day. The question is how you will commemorate it. In an era of woke consciousness how do we celebrate being South African if we can’t culturally appropriate each other?

Instead, we are asked to celebrate our roots; any one of the mélange of ethnic bits and bobs that go into making “South Africa”, which has always been an uneasy construct ever since the Act of Union in 1910. Eendrag maak mag was the motto then, which means “unity is strength” for the millennials and the other ma’fikizolo, before it became gentrified Ex Unitate Vires.

Then in 1994 we were gifted !ke e: /xarra//ke, which isn’t the password code for the wi-fi, but actually “diverse people unite” in !Xam.

So, what does unite us?

On the face of it there’s a lot that pulls us apart; we’re world champion haters, from apartheid to xenophobia; we have the world’s greatest inequality and some of the most breathtaking state capture and corporate collusion where individuals were actually able to steal an entire generation’s birth right - some say even as far back as 1652.

But we’re also a nation of the most unbelievable kindness and Christ-like forgiveness; from 1994 to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission and, despite the commercialised gees of the Fifa World Cup in 2010, unity.

This week our hearts burst with pride when a black choir from Limpopo doing vernacular covers of First World pop songs under the baton of a white choirmaster reached the finals of America’s Got Talent.

Most of all we are country where, as journalist Marianne Thamm once told me, the hands on the Doomsday Clock are perpetually between 10 to 12 and one minute to 12. We perpetually confound our critics; we are worse than people can imagine, but still the best country on Earth.

If we ever needed proof of just how perverse we can be, watch the viral 17-second clip posted this week by crime activist Yusuf Abramjee: it’s almost fitting that it was shot in Krugersdorp. A traffic cop was trying to fine a driver for using her cellphone. The driver tried to flee, so the cop leapt on to the bonnet and was then filmed by another motorist literally holding on for dear life, until - of all people - a taxi driver pulled in front and forced the driver to stop.

What’s more amazing - the speed cop actually doing his job or the taxi driver actually going above and beyond and saving lives rather than being a road menace? Or the woman thinking she could get away with a cop hanging on to her bonnet?

There’s our heritage in one; doing the unexpected, everyone pulls together when the chips are down and all’s well that ends well.

All you have to do now is get up the collective noses of the Mother Grundys on Tuesday, crack open a beer and light your braai - because marketing hype aside, having a good time around an open flame, chewing the fat and cooking meat with mates, is probably the only other thing that we all have in common.

Happy Heritage Day, South Africa!

Ritchie is a journalist and a former newspaper editor.

The views expressed herein are not necessarily those of Independent Media. 

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