By Sinothi Thabethe
The Minister of Tourism, the Honourable Mr. Derek Hanekom, visited the newly established Mpumalanga Heritage Centre and proceeded to Phoenix Settlement and J. L. Dube Heritage Centre at Inanda on the 08th October 2016. The visit was so important that the Minister proposed that the Mpumalanga Heritage Centre should be officially opened to the public soon and indicated that he would have preferred that the opening be on the 16th December 2016.
16th December is now the Public Holiday in South Africa known as the Reconciliation Day and the day could be fitting for the opening of the new Mpumalanga Heritage Centre because it seeks to promote reconciliation among the Mpumalanga community which was deeply affected by the violence of the 1980s and early 1990s. The Minister further congratulated the Mpumalanga Community and encouraged them to look after the new facility and develop programmes which could tackle unemployment and poverty in the area.
During the visit to the new facility it emerged that a local community based organization, i.e. the Mpumalanga Peace and Development Trust, had already identified specific cultural tourism and heritage projects and products that could be implemented at Mpumalanga Township to promote job creation, income generation and social cohesion.
The Mpumalanga Interpretation Centre and its exhibition is based on the 1993 inaugural Africa Peace Award that was given to the community of Mpumalanga, KwaZulu-Natal, for the brave and significant contribution they made to peace, in their efforts of turning one of the most violent areas in South Africa into a haven of relative peace. Situated 60km west of Durban, Mpumalanga is a relatively underdeveloped area serving the industrial complex of Hammarsdale.
In 1986 it became embroiled in the violence then fanning across South Africa, gaining the title ‘Little Beirut’. The violence continued unabated for four years, but in 1990 a fragile peace emerged when leaders of the rival political parties, namely the ANC and the IFP, started working together to stem the tide of killing leading to the birth of a new culture of tolerance and cooperation.
This community has been a shining example of partnership for peace between ordinary people determined to place their future hopes on the negotiation table and step out of the battlefield. The Africa Peace Award (which was the first peace award given in Africa) was given in recognition of the courage taken to stand against prejudice, poverty and protracted violence – for giving the people of South Africa hope in a new South Africa.
After visiting the Mpumalanga Heritage Centre the Minister of Tourism, the Honourable Mr. Derek Hanekom, also visited the Phoenix Settlement and J. L. Dube Heritage Centre at Inanda on the same day. The Minister was very impressed about the above mentioned historical sites and relayed his unreserved gratitude to both Mr. Mandla Nxumalo and Mr. Bongani Mthembu for their passion in telling the stories of Mahatma Gandhi and J.L. Dube. He further encouraged them to continue with the good work they are doing for the South African population. After the visit to Inanda historical sites the Minister had lunch at Lunch at Artizen Lounge, KwaMashu Township, a place which is the best kept secret in Durban.