The year 1994 marked the end to an unscrupulous and prejudiced Era of racial segregation in our country and while the rest of the world refers to Southern Africa as a beautiful, diverse ‘rainbow’ nation, years later, we find ourselves being faced with multiple issues affecting this multicultural land, socially and economically.
“When our first democratically elected government decided to make Heritage Day one of our national holidays, we did so because we knew that our rich and varied cultural heritage has a profound power to help build our new nation” said former president Nelson Mandela during an address marking Heritage Day – a day in which we embrace our culture and tradition. To celebrate this day, an initiative which was ridiculed and trivialized in 2007 but endorsed in 2008 pursued all citizens to gather some charcoal, light a match and have a braai / barbecue after which Desmond Tutu had been made national spokesperson for ‘Braai Day’, stating;
“We’re going to have this wonderful thing on the 24th of this month. When we all gather around one fire, it’s a fantastic thing – a very simple idea. Irrespective of your politics, of your culture, of your race, hierdie ding doen ons saam, just South Africans doing one thing together and recognizing we are a fantastic nation.”
However, following up recently published stories including discrimination against African girls in schools where the use of their mother tongue was prohibited along with abasing of their natural hair (afro and even dreadlocks) while another incident involved the killing of a Muslim man because of his beard and a third saw a potential student being turned away from a chef school in the province of KwaZulu Natal for the very same reason, it is clear that there are quite a few disgruntled individuals in our society having their rights violated – Needless to note the amount of innocent lives that have ruthlessly been taken from women and children around South Africa of which statistics prove the racial and religious biases in these killings.
Have we come far from the Era of Apartheid or do we face just as many challenges now as we did back then?