Our Township, My Heritage

Blog - September 24, 2017

Today, the 24th September 2017 South Africans all over will celebrate what we have come to know as Heritage day, by remembering the cultural heritage of the many cultures that make up the population of this great country.

Heritage is however more than just a matter of culture. It is the full range of our inherited traditions, monuments, and objects. It is the range of contemporary activities, meanings and behaviours we draw from them. Heritage has been defined as something that comes or belongs to one by reason of birth, an inherited lot or portion.

Heritage includes preserving, excavating, displaying & restoring a collection of old thigs, ideas and behaviours. Part & parcel of this heritage is our history as a nation and what we as a people have inherited from that history.

A defining part of South Africa’s history and that of many African countries is colonial rule. A bitter part of our history which has had dire effects on many and continues to do so in the present and possibly in the future. South Africa’s system of apartheid was built on a simple premise of separation and exclusion. The result was an economy of exclusion and such an effective concentration of land, wealth and economic power in the hands of the few. Colonial planning was intended to deliberately spatially segregate three classes of citizens which generally coincided with race groups.

  • The white colonial elite (rich)
  • The colonized middle class comprising of Indians and some Africans working in colonial bureaucracy (middle class)
  • The urban majority of Africans working for the elite (poor)

This spatial segregation resulted in the development of townships in which black people were forced to reside as far away as possible from economic city centres. Post-apartheid development policies led to the construction of townships filled with government housing and limited access to some social services. These townships however have often been built as far if not farther than the original apartheid townships.

Townships have become part of the heritage of black people in South Africa, something that we have inherited by reason of birth. Every black person’s roots; irrespective of some of us migrating to suburban areas, are rooted in a township in South Africa. Many of our townships have a rich history and heritage, homes over the years to many writers, musicians, activists, religious leaders, politicians, successful business men and women as well as ordinary  people who have lived and often struggled to survive in townships and against the odds have fought to keep the townships alive. Many of those who have stood for peace and democracy come from these very townships.  The sad thing however is that townships even in post-apartheid times continue to be a vehicle of separation and inequality. The current economic state of the townships in South Africa does not reflect unity, Ubuntu or equality. The current economic state of our townships doesn’t warrant a celebration of our heritage. The township resident himself has turned his back on his place of residence choosing to uplift areas where he will possibly never reside. The township of Diepsloot is said to be valued at R1.8 Billion, however most of that wealth is being spent outside the township in surrounding areas of Sandton and Fourways. It will be at the hands of our own people that this part of our heritage’s post mortem will be written.

Apartheid taught us to hate ourselves but to hate our brothers and sisters too. Apartheid taught us to look low upon ourselves and not trust our abilities or that of our brothers and sisters, apartheid taught us to devalue what is ours and value everything else. Apartheid taught us how to enrich others but starve ourselves in the process. When you consider how many small businesses are operating in South African townships and the growth potential that exists as a result in terms of employment opportunities and contribution to the country’s economy it should be treason for a resident within the township to seek services outside their respective township.

Steve Bantu Biko said “Being black is not a matter of pigmentation, being black is a reflection of mental attitude.” The same can be said about supporting township businesses, because buying township is not just about making a purchase, buying township is a reflection of a mental attitude. True economic emancipation of our townships lies in the hands of consumers.

Choose to use your money where it matters most. Choose to #BuyTownship!

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