Africa's liberation history to be documented

Thursday, September 14, 2017

We are a force. That’s the declaration the late African National Congress leader, Oliver Tambo, made on 2 May 1984 while delivering a speech in Mazimbu, Tanzania.

The longest serving ANC President, whose contribution to South Africa’s liberation is being celebrated throughout the country this year, spent considerable time in Tanzania lobbying the world in the fight against apartheid South Africa.

It’s difficult to talk about South Africa’s struggle for liberation without mentioning the role played by Tanzania in the fight for a democratic South Africa and an end to apartheid.

The country opened itself as a base for many liberation movements, including the ANC, the Pan African Congress, Mozambique’s FRELIMO and Angola’s People's Movement for the Liberation of Angola (MPLA). Tanzania was also a base for what was known as the African Liberation Committee, which was established by the Organisation of Africa Unity (OAU). This structure was dissolved when South Africa gained it’s democracy in 1994.  

It is perhaps for this contribution, which Tanzania made towards the liberation of African countries, that the United Nations took a decision to appoint the country to host the “Roads to Independence in Africa” project in collaboration with the African Union.

The project includes the construction of a museum, library and archives and aims to recognise the spirit of solidarity and cooperation amongst Africans, says the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO).

A high level delegation from South Africa will descend on the town of Dodoma this week to celebrate the road to liberation of African countries and the role countries like Tanzania played. The delegation, includes, among others, Arts and Culture Minister Nathi Mthethwa, Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs Minister Des Van Rooyen, Directors General from various government departments and senior government officials. They will form part of a Ministerial Roundtable themed ‘Roads to Independence: African Liberation Heritage’.

Project to promote people-to-people cooperation

According to the Department of Arts and Culture, the project, endorsed by the UN, has the potential to strengthen people-to-people cooperation using culture. It will allow South Africans and the continent’s people to appreciate that the DNA of a liberated Southern Africa and the continent as a whole is in Tanzania.

“It has the potential to contribute towards carrying out the responsibility to ensure that current and future generations know that we fought for the independence and development of our people and our countries,” the department says.

Activities around this project should be able to connect all Southern African countries and educate young people about the roots of the continent, says the department.

The project first focuses on Tanzania and the Southern African region, whose liberation movements were based in Tanzania. These countries are Angola, Mozambique, Namibia, Zambia, Zimbabwe and South Africa.

The South African chapter of the project, called the Resistance and Liberation Heritage Route, is a national memory project aimed at commemorating and celebrating South Africa’s road to independence. Cabinet established an Inter-Ministerial Committee to oversee this project and provide political leadership.

The four-day meeting in Dodoma will be preceded by preparatory interactions of senior government officials and Directors General ahead of the main ministerial gathering. At the senior officials’ meeting, South Africa will be represented by Directors General from Government Communication and Information System (GCIS), Arts and Culture, Public Works, Military Veterans, as well as the South African Heritage Resources Agency. Representatives from SADC countries, who supported the struggles for independence, have also been invited to the meeting.

Collective memory

It is hoped that the museum will play a role in collecting and keeping key memory in Africa’s road to liberation and will be used as the region’s heritage site.  

The research centre will serve as a place where research on the liberation of Africa will take place and would also share light on the aftermath of the struggle.

Tanzania has identified more than 120 liberation heritage sites and will be documenting history around the liberation of the continent.

At the end of the meeting in Dodoma, it is expected that Ministers will have a clear picture on the status of the implementation of African liberation heritage programmes within the SADC region and what can be done to ensure all countries are integrated in the programme. –

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