Helen Zille left twitter fuming when she posted a series of tweets claiming colonialism was not “ONLY” negative. She received backlash from many twitter users, political commentators and the leader of the Democratic Alliance (DA) Mmusi Maimane. Zille is the Premier of the Western Cape, the former leader of DA, and a former Mayor of Cape Town.
Since it seems as if the Premier has forgotten the conditions of colonialism and does not realise its impact, maybe she needed to experience them through our museums such as the Constitution Hill which I visited this Tuesday for free on a Human rights day tour. The legacy of colonialism has never been positive, and perhaps it was the correct time that the Premier showed her ignorance for the struggles and the pain colonialism produced which I fail to understand given her contribution to the fight against colonialism and apartheid. Zille tweeted: “For those claiming legacy of colonialism was ONLY negative, think of our independent judiciary, transport infrastructure, piped water,” which was irresponsible and ignorant. It is essential we comprehend that the infrastructure that the Premier claims helps us, was not meant for us all. For example, the infrastructure used to supply South Africans with electricity was originally build to supply the minority of the population, which is partly why South Africa is facing power supply problems today. This problem is a threat to small businesses and maintenance of the social inequalities that continue to exist.
A visit to the Constitution Hill gives one a vivid picture of the struggles this nation has endured. It is not only the rusty steals or the fading paint on the walls rather it is the blue experience that one receives from the precinct that forces you to realise what colonialism is. The conditions under which the prisoners were detained were designed not only to punish them but to also break them in the flesh and mentally. For example, during the tour we were showed how searches for weapons and other prohibited items in the prison were conducted, the inmates were stripped naked and made to jump around. This is evidence of a method aimed at breaking the spirit and intellectual capacity of anyone who is caught defying the laws of the regime. The conditions under which our freedom fighters stomached were meant to destroy the momentum of the revolution and put fear at the door of anyone who dares claim to be a freedom fighter. One could immediately understand the importance and begin to appreciate the basic freedom which our great freedom fighters have attained for us. In each and every section of the prison, my tour mates kept asking “how could they?” even after reading all about the struggles of this nation, being in the same room that Nelson Mandela was detained in one still remained in shock of the brutality of the past government.
The museum is a constant reminder of a system which almost completely destroyed the Black nation and any hope of a chance to freedom. It reminds us of an evil cloud that once covered this nation and also gives us a perspective of the past that we ought to preserve as a guide for not repeating the same mistakes for generations to come. Constitution Hill reflects characteristics of the great nation we have built through blood and tears and the dream of an equal South African society. The legacy of colonialism is negative and will remain negative. People should not be misled and made to believe that there is a thing called a “born free” or a positive legacy of colonialism when our country still struggles with unemployment, educational inequalities and service delivery incompetency. The reminders of our past are there to keep us from making statements such as those of the Premier, however some people never learn. To say something positive came out of colonialism is disrespectful to our democracy and should be seen as spiting on the faces of our dead freedom fighters