MCEBO DLAMINI: Why SA should value the tradition of the monarch


Perhaps it is important to make this clear. To believe in tradition or to find value in what tradition is does not mean to be stuck in the past.

There are a significant number of people who are under the false impression that if one values culture, that particular person is stagnant or does not appreciate that the world is constantly evolving and that adaptation to that evolution is important.

One believes in tradition for many positive reasons. Most important is that without a thorough understanding of traditions, we have no understanding of ourselves. Someone without an appreciation of their traditions is without an appreciation of their culture and of their history.

This is why I think it is important that we guard our traditions at all times. This does not mean we cease to critique them where they are flawed. Indeed, we do, but we also protect them where they are unjustifiably attacked.

Here I want to be bold and speculate that quite a significant number of people who exist within urban settings find no value in the monarchs in South Africa. On social media many have voiced how they believe that the position of the monarch is obsolete and plays no significant role.

This is quite disturbing if one thinks seriously about how central monarchs are in the preservation of our tradition and culture as people of South Africa. They are not only important as a repository from which we can trace our belonging, but it is an important form of governance. It still plays an important role for people who live in the rural areas.

Now it is not surprising that the people who critique it exist within urban settings; the most westernised parts of our land. It is in these urban setting that whiteness is on the face of black people, dictating everything from what they eat to what they think. Why then would they support the concept of the monarch, which is perhaps the only remaining relic of how black people were organised.

I also want to mention my suspicion of the ANC not taking seriously the monarch - particularly the Zulu monarch - as a symbol of disregard for culture and tradition.

The insistence of the ANC for the budget of the monarch must not be read at surface level. It is very well if they want these cuts so that more resources can be delivered to the people, but it is highly doubtful.

If that was the case, why have they failed to call for wealth tax? Why would they only see only the expenditure of the monarch as wasteful when there are CEOs who make billions through the exploitation of black labour?

Even worse, if they are worried about funds which are allocated necessarily, they should have called for the decrease of the salaries of government officials. They should call for cutting of the benefits of already-corrupt officials.

We must be able to think through the smokescreen. Things are not always what they seem and as leaders and thinkers, we must continue to probe until we get a satisfactory understanding.

Here I am not blindly defending the tradition of the monarch, but trying to understand why there so much effort in making it seem unimportant or just a money-wasting institution.

In all parts of the world, monarchs are respected and guarded, except by us in Africa. What could be the cause of this?

Mcebo Dlamini is a former leader of student protests at Wits University.

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