AfriForum is in favour of communities getting to know and appreciate their history better, but questions the intended plan of the Minister of Sport, Arts and Culture, Nathi Mthethwa, to make History a compulsory school subject.
According to Alana Bailey, AfriForum’s Head of Cultural Affairs, History can either serve to promote mutual recognition and respect amongst communities, or achieve the opposite, namely to polarise them even further and to set minorities up as scapegoats.
“For History to inspire and create insight into the complex nature of the past, it is essential that facts have to be presented objectively,” Bailey stated. “The standards and norms of our ancestors differ vastly from those of people in the 21st century. When History is taught as a science, students learn to guard against the one-sided interpretation of events.”
Bailey mentioned that the recent statements about the “offensive” nature of statues erected before 1994 illustrate the lack of appreciation for such nuances. “It is clear that the ruling party wants to use History as a propaganda tool and will not hesitate to distort facts to fit into their ideological framework. To appreciate the contributions of and sacrifices made by the generations that preceded us, as the preamble to the Constitution indeed stipulates, an image of the past cannot be created where some figures may be tolerated in public, while others may only be seen in designated areas. Similarly, a subject cannot be imposed on scholars under the pretext that it will bring about harmony amongst all South Africans, if it presents a one-sided image of the past.”
“AfriForum promotes the balanced presentation of historical facts by means of various projects and aims to expose the creation of myths, victims and scapegoats, as well as all other transgressions with the way in which the past is presented for ideological purposes; in order to ensure an appreciation for the past without distortions.”