Ndabezinhle Sibiya reflects on what came out of the commemoration of the battle of Isandlwana, in which the Zulu army inflicted a shocking defeat on the mighty British empire.
Sunday marked 138 years since the clash between Zulu warriors and the English army in the battle of Isandlwana in the Anglo-Zulu War.
Thousands of people of different races led by King Goodwill Zwelithini gathered in Nquthu on Saturday for the commemoration.
All of the wars fought in KwaZulu-Natal were fought by those who yearned for independence, political self-determination, protection of cultural identity and language.
People wanted access to land on one hand, while others were against the forceful seizure of their land.
These wars, the Battle of Isandlwana in particular, proved pivotal to South Africa’s geo-political evolution.
Critically, these battles served as an inspiration to many generations of ordinary people and leaders who found themselves at the forefront of a broader struggle to build a non-racial, non-sexist, democratic and prosperous society from the 1800s until we voted for the first time in a democratic South Africa.
Reconciliation among the people of this province remains one outstanding matter that KwaZulu-Natal Premier Willies Mchunu and his executive council are determined to pursue.
The premier has often stated that His Majesty, King Goodwill Zwelithini has, over the years, been an advocate of peace and reconciliation. When intolerance threatened the fragile peace that had been achieved after years of political violence, Isilo meticulously brought together leaders from all political parties.
His Majesty has shown determination to instil a patriotic culture that emphasises the importance of putting all South Africans first in anything leaders of government do. Indeed, KZN has made miraculous progress over the years.
On Saturday, the premier reiterated the determination of government to create an equal society where values identified in the constitution are enjoyed by all.
This year, the premier will lead programmes focusing on social cohesion with communities across racial lines mobilised to partner with government.
Working together to build a stronger province economically and socially will be the fulfilment of the dreams of Alan Paton, Jack Govender, Harry Gwala, Helen Joseph, Billy Nair, Bishop Colenso, Griffiths Mxenge, Ruth First, Nokuhamba Nyawo, Archbishop Denis Hurley, Dawood Seedat, AKM Docrat, PM Harry, Fatima and IF Meer, John Beaver Marks, Josiah Gumede and many of our heroes and heroines.
The contribution of other well-known leaders from different communities is well documented and forms part of the history of our beloved province. Because of their unwavering dedication, we are proud that years after we attained freedom, KZN is home to citizens of different racial and cultural backgrounds who make up the rich and diverse tapestry of our cultural heritage.
We need to celebrate that the new democracy was founded on the principles of forgiveness, reconciliation, mutual respect and acceptance of our diversity. Only a positive attitude about our country will enable us to face challenges without pointing fingers.
When we accept responsibility, we will be able to defeat the challenges of poverty, crime, disease and underdevelopment, as this will allow us to contribute individually to the collective development of all our people.
Importantly, as we start the year, we must debate how best we can celebrate our heroes - black, white, coloured and Indian - who fought against apartheid.
The commemoration of the battle of Isandlwana is a reminder that South Africa has been engaged in the struggle for liberation since the first European settlers landed at the Cape of Good Hope in the 1600s.
The frontier wars of the Eastern Cape, where the Xhosa nation was involved in defending their land and livestock against colonialist encroachment, were part of the bigger struggle.
So were the Anglo-Zulu wars and the eventual defeat of ISilo uCetshwayo in the battle of Ulundi on July 4, 1879, marking the beginning of the dismantling of the might of the Zulu nation.
The wars of great African kings such as Moshoeshoe and Sekukuni also fall under the struggle, as they were defending their heritage, rights, livestock and land.
When the first Indian indentured labourers landed in Durban harbour on November 16, 1860, they were to find an already entrenched colonial system that was bent on European supremacy.
By the time Mohandas K Gandhi, a free man, arrived on May 22, 1893, the Natal colonialists were consolidating their economic and political hegemony and power through various laws that discriminated against the indigenous and, increasingly, the Asian immigrants, including Indians, Pakistanis and Chinese.
We take this opportunity to salute the great sons and daughters of our province, who over the history of colonial and apartheid oppression and repression stood firm in their resistance to all forms of inhumanity inflicted upon people of colour in our country.
A few years ago, the provincial government launched the Emakhosini Multi Media Centre in Ulundi. The centre includes a memorial to preserve and restore history for future generations.
On this site there was a clash of cultures and civilisations, as the first group of Voortrekkers fought with the Zulu nation who had made the area their home and kingdom.
It is in the area where the Voortrekker leader Piet Retief and members of his commando lost their lives and triggered a series of events. The clashes and bloodshed resulted in the designation of December 16 as Dingaan’s Day and subsequently the Day of the Covenant for the Afrikaner community.
This day has been renamed the Day for Reconciliation by the new democratic government. In reality this means that the tensions and conflict that we have carried as South Africans over many decades was finally settled by the creation of a platform for all communities to accept each other as equals.
This was done through the national general elections based on equality and the principle of one man, one vote.
Our province is rich in heritage sites and entities that cross the cultural divide. We need to cherish and preserve these.
We have to build an inclusive economy which creates jobs but, more importantly, reflects the demographics of the country.
Working with business, labour and the community sector, we have to change the ownership, control and management of the economy.
Together we must fight racism, as it is not only a threat to our democracy, but a barrier towards transforming our country to a non-racial future.
Racism weakens our society and erodes the trust and optimism on which economic growth depends. It needs to be addressed with the seriousness it deserves.
The social cohesion programme to be spearheaded by the premier, in partnership with leaders of society, will focus on constructive dialogue to heal our nation and foster improved race relations.
* Sibiya is the spokesman for KwaZulu-Natal’s premier.
The Sunday Tribune