Heritage Month has become a historically arrested exercise | The Citizen





Heritage Month has become a historically arrested exercise in its re-enactment and display of a people’s culture, heritage and practice.

This performative form of ubuntu is entrenched in emotive manipulation that strips it of its political foundation and identity, rendering it powerless to bring about harmonisation.

The ubuntu we are taught to perform is rooted in the need for collective amnesia and is absolved from any responsibility in redressing structural and systemic inequalities.

This diluted and almost ideologically barren understanding of ubuntu comes at a cost as it continues to fail those who depend on it the most – the poor, vulnerable and marginalised – especially black farmers.

The failure to restructure in meaningful ways the predeterminative structural and systemic barriers that exile black farmers to the margins of the agrarian political economy speaks of a policy crisis that is devoid of the true meaning of Ubuntu.

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This Takalani Sesame Street ubuntu I completely reject with the contempt that it deserves. However, recently an even more perverse practice has emerged in the aggressive capture of the agricultural sector by elite youth enclaves that in some places are used as tokens of transformation.

I fear this trend will rapidly grow with the emerging cannabis industry. I ask a very simple yet important question: at whose expense? It is a matter of fact that for the poor, the need to work the land has never been a choice.

It is and continues to be a matter of survival. I am outraged by the almost complacent acceptance of the continued marginalisation of the poor and the capture of the transformation agenda.

This must be seen for what it truly is: an exploitative, manipulative and perverse use of ubuntu rooted in “big man” politics that puts the poor at the mercy of the elite.

One of the core pinnacles of ubuntu is fairness. More and more the politics of the day are left wanting. This has put us at the mercy of systematically violent and dehumanising cultures of practice that value systems of patronage and social capital networks at the expense of a just transformation agenda.

This particularly applies to rural youth whose “visibility” is conveniently magnified for the purpose of political expediency.

We need to debate how ubuntu as an African theory of praxis ought to be engaged and implemented if we are to advance a developmental agenda that truly speaks to equity, inclusivity and the betterment of the common good.

I refuse to celebrate this ideologically barren ubuntu that condemns many of my peers to a vicious cycle of poverty.

-Maqwelane is a PhD candidate of the Environmental Learning Research Centre in the Education Department at Rhodes University.

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