DECOLONISATION: A Cocktail Of Controversy

Whilst Prof George Devenish is critical of the racial excesses attached to the idea of decolonisation, (Daily News, January 25), his apparent support for the process in general raises questions.

The aim of decolonisation, he notes, is part of transformation, and as such “genuine transformation is essential for the health and survival of our democracy.” But our constitution is premised on a multi-party system of democracy in which democratic values and freedom are enshrined (sections 1 and 7).

The health of our democracy cannot be promoted by discarding the values and heritage of any section of society.

A case in point is the concern raised by IFP national chairman Blessed Gwala about Ulundi and the fact that despite its historical significance it has been neglected (Daily News, January 25).

According to Devenish, decolonisation involves “more than merely changing names of buildings and the removal of statues.” In other words, decolonisation means disposing of history, heritage and culture that originated as a result of colonialism. Although he always specifies his role in the drafting of the interim constitution in 1993, the fact that Devenish apparently supports decolonisation is intriguing.

For section 9 of the 1996 constitution, under the Bill of Rights, prohibits discrimination against culture. (Of course, section 9 (5) attempts to provide some wiggle room on this by stating that such provision could be modified if “ it is established that the discrimination is fair.”)

Be that as it may, the preamble of the constitution exhorts all to “respect those who have worked to build and develop our country.”

Thus, we have a contradiction in terms.

The idea of decolonisation is fraught with contradiction, confrontation, and hypocrisy. That is reality. It cannot unmake the past and within the context of the global village, it can only have a stultifying effect in terms of tertiary education.

Published in The Daily News

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