Cape Town – Deputy Defence and Military Veterans Minister Kebby Maphatsoe says he would like to see the Castle of Good Hope become a place of pilgramage for citizens from all political persuasions and from all parts of the country.
“We want people to say: ‘Let’s go to Cape Town not only for the beaches, but also for the Castle, so that we can see and learn about where our king or chief was jailed.”
Maphatsoe has been in the defence and military veterans portfolio since May 26, 2014. When discussing Cape Town’s most enduring landmark, he sounds like a new broom.
Central to the commemoration of the Castle’s 350th anniversary will be the unveiling, by President Jacob Zuma tomorrow, of statues of four indigenous fighters against Dutch and British colonialism: a Goringhaiqua chief named Doman, the Zulu king, Cetshwayo, the Pedi king Sekhukhune, and Langalibalele, the king of the amaHlubi people.
“We decided on honouring these four great South African leaders because we believe that not enough effort had been made to tell about how they struggled against great odds to protect the independence of their people,” Maphatsoe said.
Each of the leaders who are being commemorated demonstrated incredibly innovative leadership in their struggles against Dutch, Boer and British colonists.
Doman launched his war against the Dutch in rainy weather, having worked out that the matchlock guns of the enemy would not fire in wet weather.
Cetshwayo’s Zulu army, armed mainly with stabbing spears, shocked imperial Britain, by inflicting a stunning defeat over its Redcoats at Isandlwana.
Sekhukhune defeated the Boers and the British in a succession of battles, while Langalibalele also repulsed attacks by colonial forces in the then Natal.
“We want the history of these leaders to be told,” says Maphatsoe.
“We know that the Castle was used as a fort, as a prison for indigenous leaders, and as a place where black people were tortured and killed – from the time of the early colonists, right up to the brutal era of the apartheid regime,” he says.
“It is important for people to know what happened between its walls. We want it to become a centre of learning, healing and memory,” Maphatsoe says.
“I would like to see communities which have always seen it as a place from where their subjugation was plotted and implemented to come to it to seek healing and closure, if that is what they want. At present, only the Khoikhoi have taken up this invitation.”
Maphatsoe understands that the process he wants to champion may take time. But there have been hopeful signs, he says.
“Groups from the Northern Cape, the Eastern Cape, Limpopo and Mpumalanga have visited.
“Moreover, when the king of the Venda people learnt that we were going to honour the kings of the past, he contacted us to say he wanted to become involved so that he could pay his respects to the Pedi king, Sekhukhune.
“These were eye-openers for the new groups of visitors to the Castle. There is so much of South African history that they did not know. The 350th anniversary commemoration of the Castle will widen their knowledge even further,” he said.
“What they are beginning to realise is that the Castle is the genesis of our freedom. It takes us on a long journey – from oppression to freedom.”