On 8th March the Western Cape Provincial Government formally recognised Freedom Square in Bonteheuwel as a provincial heritage site. Attending the event was Adv Mandla Mdludlu from the Heritage Western Cape Council, Ron Martin from the IGIC, Alderman Theresa Thompson from the City of Cape Town, Yusuf Cassiem representing the Bonteheuwel, Councillor Angus McKenzie from the City of Cape Town, MP Faiez Jacobs, MEC for Cultural and Sport Minister Anroux Marais and Felicity Harrison from the IJR.
The event highlighted the importance of such sites for our communities. Historical memory is not just about reminding us of the past. Ron Martin said that it serves as a memorial to the struggles, resilience and sacrifices that have been made for our freedom. Freedom Square is a tribute to those who came before and a place to educate our children, not just of the past but also as a way to inspire a better future.
Mr Cassiem emphasised the need to remember the space, not just as a place of struggle, but also as a space of watching the birth of democracy when FW de Klerk and Nelson Mandela debated each other.
Giving an overview of the importance of historical memory, Felicity Harrison mentioned the need for such sites so that the individual, community and country can heal. Part of this healing is for all parts of society to acknowledge the hurts of the past, and that this includes white people. There is a need for individual and collective recognition of oppression and the harm caused.
MP Faiez Jacobs spoke of how such spaces serve to unite us against the dehumanising effects of apartheid. He, like Mr Cassiem, noted that Freedom Square was also a cultural meeting place where breakdancing used to take place. Councillor McKenzie emphasised the connection between the past and present, saying that Freedom Square must now be a place that brings people together.
MEC Anroux Marais reiterated what previous speakers had said and committed her department to strive to include more sites of historical significance.
Poet Irma Titus reminded us that “the South African revolution will not be stopped” and that “even today our leaders echo the songs of Freedom Square”. The past cannot be divorced from the present, nor the present from the future. The event was a powerful celebration of how remembering the past helps us in the present to ensure a better future
Felicity Harrison, Head of Sustained Dialogues Programme