The South African government did not take issues of culture and heritage seriously and missed out on the economic benefits of heritage tourism.
This was the opinion of National Heritage Council’s CEO Sonwabile Mancotywa at the 99th Daily Dispatch dialogues in East London on Tuesday night with academic Dr Mcebisi Ndletyana.
Mancotywa said the country did not adequately celebrate its national days but had commercialised them.
Mancotywa’s newly launched book, Critical Conversation about Heritage, has five themes, addressing matters of social cohesion, respect for cultural rights, heritage and development, reconciliation, and paying tribute to stalwarts of the liberation struggle.
He said the book also showed how the country could prioritise heritage “to ensure that we benefit as society in our social cohesion and national pride”.
He said it had been proven that it was much cheaper to create jobs through heritage than other industries, “but yet we still face the challenge of not realising the potential of heritage in developing our economy”.
Mancotywa said not even the government’s development master plan, the national development plan (NDP), used heritage as a rallying point for development.
“There is less attention paid to heritage issues. It is a by-the-way issue with key decision makers not understanding the value of investing in it.
“However, we need to look at how best to realise the potential that comes with heritage.
“Without prioritising heritage, there is a possibility of re-colonisation of Africa and in the book, we challenge policy makers to invest more in heritage as it is a strategic resource to nation building,” he said.
He said the country had yet to realise the importance of “social memory” and needed to change its approach on how national days such as Heritage Day in September, are celebrated.
“We do not realise the importance of these national days and thus they do not benefit social cohesion and our national identity. So now these days have become commercialised.”
Ndletyana agreed, saying heritage “was not afforded sufficient attention in our discourse” and that this was a reflection of a bigger problem. — firstname.lastname@example.org