This site uses cookies to provide you with a more responsive and personalised service. By using this site you agree to our use of cookies. Please read our PRIVACY POLICY for more information on the cookies we use and how to delete or block them.
  • History, heritage and our future

History, heritage and our future

25 September 2019

Cobie Van Antwerpen , Head of Public Sector and Financial Management Services |

Spring has arrived in sunny Mzanzi – a new breath of fresh air – a new beginning yet again.  Trees and flowers blossom, birds sing, cosmos growing wildly in open veldts, crisp fresh air – beautiful sunrises and sunsets… equally in Jozi as in the plains of Mapungubwe National Park and on Table Mountain.

This made me ponder whether it is truly a new season, a new beginning or just the same old nuances of “it’s time for a braai, a time to have some fun”.

Heritage day cannot be merely that one day when we reflect on our history and heritage – the where we come from part. It should also be a day when for consideration of the “what will we leave for the next generation – where are we going?”.

During Heritage month, Government, whilst busy with their strategic plans for the next Medium Term Expenditure Framework (MTEF) period, must incorporate the Sustainable Development Goals to make this a better South Africa for us all to live in.  Government must not consider the National Development Plan in isolation from the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

But what does the NDP and the SDGs have to do with heritage? In my view – everything. These goals, combined with the NDP, are an aggressive but achievable set of objectives for the current generation to ensure that future generations do have a better world to live in. In short, the achievement of these goals will mean that heritage continues for the next generation.

Seventeen goals have been identified and they seek to, inter alia, end poverty, ensure food security, and universal access to healthcare, educate youth and citizens, protect the environment, ensure gender equality.

Harsh realities face our beloved country: the divide between those with access to basic services and those without, is increasing.  Poverty, hunger, health, education, the environment, water, sanitation and climate concerns continue to be pressing global and national challenges.  We need to respond.

The 17 SDGs can be grouped into six “essential elements”: dignity, people, planet, prosperity, justice and partnership.

Inequalities have risen dramatically in our country and do not allow all South Africans to live with dignity.   Basic food, education and health services are critical and yet are not accessible to all.    As a result, prosperity is also not achieved as people are not able to prosper if they are hungry, sick and uneducated.

The events of the past two weeks have further emphasized how important it is that the SDGs are considered – and if dignity and our people are important enough, (Government and the private sector would be working together for all to achieve a certain level of prosperity.  Due to a lack of justice applied, our people and the dignity of fellow citizens has been directly attacked.

I agree with Minister of the Environment, Forestry and Fisheries Barbra Creecy who recently commented in Leadership magazine that as “South Africans we are often hypercritical and hard on ourselves, but its critical for us as leaders to articulate our vision of where we want to go, I think that we are sometimes so overwhelmed by immediate problems that we lose sight of where we are going in the long term”.

She understands the impact of the current socio-economic pressures on the environment.  If we use our hypercritical assessment of our current state of affairs, it does force us to think and understand that our actions today will impact our future of tomorrow.

Companies play an important role in leading change and innovation, using business practices in developing regions to spur sustainable economic growth, promoting inclusive and sustainable industrialization, championing peace and gender equality, and providing much-needed financial support.  Collectively we need to create a sustainable employment process within our country to assist with unemployment and making South Africa better. We need to root out corrupt activities, through sound internal controls and appropriate governance and assurance services.  This will in return avail actual monies to empower our youth through education and employment opportunities


Reflections on Heritage

The word ‘heritage’ comes from an old French word meaning ‘something that is passed down from previous generations; a tradition’. It was originally taken to mean property that was handed down by parents to their children, but in more recent times has taken on a much broader definition:   Those things from the past which are valued enough today to save for future generations

A rhetorical question of who passes those things / stories to the future generations surely reflects on the importance of the “her” in the word “heritage”.

During the celebrations of Youth Month, Women’s Month and Heritage Month, we tend to forget that they are interlinked.  Heritage already indicates the importance of the “her” in the society.  We often joke when we look at the word History, that it remains “his” story – as much of our history does not depict the important role that women have played to nurture future generations.

Women such as Albertina Sisulu looked after so many our current and past political leaders during periods where our trajectory as a country started changing.  In August 2007, I was privileged to meet Ma Sisulu at the opening of the R21/R24 Albertina Sisulu corridor.  As she entered the venue, assisted by family, I felt goosebumps as all stood in respect and honour of this tremendous icon of the struggle.  One of my favorite quotes of Ma Sisulu’s represents what we need to remember on Heritage Day: “We are each required to walk our own road and then stop, assess what we have learnt, and share it with others. It is only in this way that the next generation can learn from those who have walked before them. We can do no more than tell our story. Then it is up to them to make of it what they will.”

The key take away from this powerful quote is that our heritage is an active, day to day task, one which we all are responsible for.  We need to STOP and assess what we have learnt – SHARE it with others.  That is true heritage that we pass on from generation to generation.  Telling our stories allows our heritage to become an inspiration for our youth.

During this Heritage month, after a brutal Women’s Month, we need “her” story to be told.

Mirriam Makeba once said “Be careful, think about the effect of what you say. Your words should be constructive, bring people together, not pull them apart.”

Using the SDGs as a foundation, let us build a society where our heritage and our history tells a story of bringing people together.  Johnny Clegg’s The Crossing depicts us crossing the dark mountains and laying down our troubles.  Let us build a future and a heritage that we can be proud of.


O Siyeza, o siyeza , sizofika webaba noma
O siyeza, o siyeza, siyagudle lomhlaba
Siyawela lapheshaya lulezontaba ezimnyama
Lapha sobheka phansi konke ukhulupheka


The future is tomorrow and tomorrow is impacted by decisions taken today – we need to build a sustainable future for our children.

Footnote: Based on certain SDG international development strategies and concerted efforts made, between 1990 and 2015, the number of those living in extreme poverty has fallen from an estimated 1.9 billion to 836 million.  However, locally in South Africa, 56 % of the population is living in extreme poverty as per surveys conducted in 2017.  Our unemployment rate for Q2 of 2019 is the highest 2003 at 29 percent.

Read more BDO Insights