ADDRESS BY Mr ML Filtane MP in the National Assembly

Hon Speaker and members

Steve Biko once said, “As long as blacks are suffering from inferiority complex as a result of 300 years of deliberate oppression, denigration and division, they will be useless as co-architects of a normal society where man has nothing else but man for his own sake”. In this regard, he called for a liberation from mental enslavement.

The historical and heritage symbols play an important part in defining our present, the past, and are a reality, upon which a discourse on defining the future or explaining the past can be located.

However, the debate about symbols and building a democratic heritage cannot be an isolated one but an integral part of the broad socio economic transformation of our society. The building of a democratic heritage requires a substantial focus on a thorough understanding of how the social, political and economic structure, and relations, both theoretical and programmatic, are shaped.

The narrow focus on symbolic representation of the legacy of colonialism, apartheid and separate development will result in mere ceremonial and symbolic engagement with the continuity of the same but under a post-colonial and apartheid era. The product will be artificial interventions devoid of substance, beyond the symbolic and a feel good vibes.

The radical engagement with the more complicated challenges of how to bring about total de-colonialisation aimed at genuine physical and psychological liberation of the people must not be limited to politically correct rhetoric that cushions the interest and agenda of the ruling elite.

However, and in the same vein, the importance of symbols as a means to restore dignity and pride of a people cannot be relegated to the periphery. We emphasise that it must not be divorced from the overall programme of building a new united South Africa that take cognisance of the histories, heritage and collective memories of all its people.

The dictate of the Constitution, that South African belong to all who live in it, demands that we collectively, as a people, define our legacy, history and heritage and dictate how we want to celebrate these.

The real debate should indeed be about what place do the colonial symbols occupy and how they can be used to educate future generations about the atrocities of colonialism and apartheid.

Simply destroying parts of this reality of history will distort our collective history and deny future generations the chance of knowing our past. National unity and eradication of all socio economic ills of the past will be achieved through tangible institutional, systematic and structural pattern of development.

Borrowing from Frantz Fanon, the struggle of the people of South Africa is concern as much with freedom from colonialism as with liberation from the suffocating embrace of the past and the pretention of its civilisation should be a universal destiny of all its citizens.

I thank you