It makes more sense to rename the airport in Nelson Mandela Bay after Nelson Mandela, writes Nkosi Zwelivelile Mandela.
South Africa’s political history is but one strand among many that collectively constitute our heritage, the underlying fabric of our nation. An important foundational strand, undoubtedly, after three-and-a-half centuries of colonialism and apartheid – but not the only one.
When we celebrate our heritage, as we do each September, we’d do well in future to broaden our conceptualisation of the ground on which we stand, to acknowledge other aspects of our national DNA, some of which, like traditional leadership, pre-date colonialism.
Our ancestors have bequeathed us a rich well of culture that is fundamental to our progress in nation-building, social cohesion and national reconciliation, the founding premises of our young democracy.
Take Robben Island, for example, a space universally associated with the imprisonment of political leaders who opposed apartheid. The fact that traditional leaders were the first political prisoners to be held on Robben Island – Fadana, Langalibalele, Sandile, Maqoma, Siyolo, Tyali and Anta among them – is viewed as a largely insignificant footnote that threatens to slip off the pages of history altogether.
It is in this context that the Mandela Royal Family supports preserving the legacy of Kaizer Daliwonga Matanzima by not re-naming the KD Matanzima Airport in Mthatha. We know that perspectives of Kaizer Matanzima’s political activities as a Bantustan leader differ, yet he was a relative who our founding President, Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela, held in high esteem. We should not erase his name from history.
The King Sabata Dalindyebo Municipality (Mthatha) and the Nelson Mandela Metro (Port Elizabeth) have been in a race to rename their airports after our grandfather; they have both said that they intend approaching the Eastern Cape Geographic Names Committee.
If we were able to reconcile the differences between the African National Congress and the National Party, and establish a Government of National Unity with our former captors, torturers and killers, then surely the people of the Eastern Cape can reconcile their differences with Matanzima.
Some traditional leaders, such as Nkosi Mangosuthu Buthelezi, enjoy the support of the post-apartheid political dispensation with its spoils. Among other things, there is an institution of higher learning named after Nkosi Buthelezi, which correctly has the full support of our ministry of higher education and training. Why, then, should we disavow KD Matanzima’s legacy.
If the Eastern Cape is desperate to name more things after my grandfather, it would make more sense to name the airport located in the Nelson Mandela Metropolitan area than to shove Matanzima from his pedestal in Mthatha.
We call on our ANC led government to assist communities to reconcile their differences and preserve their memories for future generations.
* Nkosi Zwelivelile Mandela is a Member of Parliament
** The views expressed here are not necessarily those of Independent Media.