Preserving and Protecting Township Memorial Sites

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Tuesday, 5th April 2022

I was saddened to find that the Fingo Memorial site is a shadow of what it used to be. I found myself wondering why we do not feel the need to protect and preserve these sites in our communities. Is there a lack of knowledge about the importance of these sites? Do people need to be educated about their history before they feel the need to protect these commemoration sites? 

Egazini (the place of blood) is a place that commemorates the battle of Grahamstown that happened in April 1819. The battle was between the Xhosa people and the British settlers. The Egazini mosaic pillars were erected to remember the many Xhosa people who died during the war. The Arts and Culture Department unveiled the Egazini memorial site in 2001 to honour the memory of those who died in the battle of Grahamstown.

I recently bumped into a group of young people from Johannesburg. They were very interested in visiting the Egazini memorial site. This invoked my curiosity to go and see the memorial site. I was distraught when I got there and saw that the site had been vandalised. It got me wondering as to why people residing next to the memorial site do not feel the need to safeguard the site.

As I was taking pictures, I saw young kids pushing trolleys full of rubbish and throwing that rubbish next to the site. Some of them broke bottles on top of the Toposcope. I do not think we are doing enough to educate our children about the importance of this site. I strongly believe that the solution is within us. We need to talk to each other and not always resort to destruction.

During my visit to Egazini, I saw a place that could encourage township tourism. Young people usually come to town and busk as mimes during the National Arts Festival, but they could do the same in this historical location and bring economic activity closer to their homes. Vendors from Makhanda East could erect temporary stalls in the vicinity of the memorial site and sell refreshments and show off their arts and crafts to visitors. If the memorial site was not vandalised, people would not be so weary of the area, opening it up to host regular activities. This would attract new visitors to learn about our history, participate in local events, and experience traditions and cultural practices first-hand. 

Something needs to be done to get people to see the value of protecting these crucial township sites. The community needs to be more involved in the entire planning process when these projects are commissioned in their communities and be able to give their input. Perhaps the community will be more willing to protect the sites if they understand that these memorial sites belong to them and are of value. I hope one day soon, we will get to a place where everyone realises the importance of such sites and will eagerly protect and maintain them as a community.

 

Opinion contributed by Siphokazi Mtana

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