Eastern Cape residents have been asked to nominate heroes from their province who have made an impact on their lives, in an interactive campaign aimed at getting the public involved in celebrating their heritage and promoting the province. The campaign has sparked lively debate, with politicians such as Bantu Holomisa, Mamphela Ramphele and Zwelinzima Vavi weighing in.
The obvious choice in the Home of Legends campaign would be Nelson Mandela, but once Eastern Cape residents started thinking, the list was becoming endless. United Democratic Movement leader Bantu Holomisa – who himself was nominated – chose to pay tribute to the teachers who impacted on his life in his forming years. He said on social networking site Twitter: “obvious choice is uTata Madiba, but in childhood Rev Bacon & Jongilizwe College teachers shaped me.”
Agang SA leader Mamphela Ramphele, in an address in Mthata in the Eastern Cape this month, looked further back into history for her nominations.
“We are here together to honour the sacrifices of the heroes of our struggle and to take inspiration from their work as we continue to fight to realise the promises on which our young nation is founded – human dignity, equality and freedom,” said Ramphele.
“Who are these heroes I am talking about? We remember the brave battles put by our various kingdoms against colonial invasion and oppression throughout the centuries, including the Bambatha Rebellion and the bravery of King Hintsha here in the Eastern Cape, among others.”
But Ramphele also pointed out that while celebrating the province’s heritage, at the same time it was dealing with many problems, such as poor health and education services.
“We are at a critical moment in our history but I have faith that we have a huge potential for the future. I believe we can still build the great, equal and prosperous society that… many heroes died for.”
Suspended Congress of SA Trade Unions general secretary Zwelinzima Vavi seemed to take a cynical view of the campaign. “Sad… The Home of legends but the most under developed province in SA. Wow,’ he tweeted.
Political commentator Mcebisi Ndletyana, in an opinion piece published by the Dispatch Online, said the campaign was long overdue.
“One is actually hard-pressed to recall anything positive about the province in the recent past. Not a pleasant thing, I know. It’s true nonetheless. Rehabilitating the provincial image is, therefore, necessary. It could dilute the unpleasant narrative we’re bombarded with. More important than a facelift perhaps is that the campaign has elicited a public conversation not only about our ancestry, but who we are,” Ndletyana wrote.
That seems to be what Eastern Cape premier Noxolo Kiviet had in mind. “Ours may be among the poorer provinces in a scale of financial resources. We don’t mine gold or platinum here; we mine, breed and regenerate legends. We are rich in human wealth.”
The campaign, with the slogan, “Lithuba Lakho! Have your say!”, saw Deputy President Kgalema Mothlante, accompanied by several ministers and MECs, launch the Home of Legends exhibition in Port Elizabeth.
The first phase of the campaign started with the launch of the Home of Legends brand in the Mqekezweni village in the Eastern Cape, where Mandela started his education. Billboards have been set up across the province calling on residents to nominate their heroes through Facebook and Twitter, and via nomination boxes set up at police stations.
An Eastern Cape government official told TheMediaOnline that it was too early to say how many nominations had been received, because residents had until the end of September to take part.
On its Facebook page, nominations included struggle hero Walter Sisulu, former president Thabo Mbeki, former Eastern Cape premier Raymond Mhlaba, freedom fighter Robert Sobukwe, the first registered black nurse in South Africa, Cecilia Makiwane and Reverend James Arthur Calata.