Liberation Heritage Route gathered SADC countries on a ‘way-forward’

The National Heritage Council of South Africa hosted a 2nd Southern Africa Liberation Workshop held in Pretoria on 09 – 11 October 2013. The 3 days workshop was attended by eminent Heritage leaders and experts from the Southern African Development Community (SADC) countries, who reported on progress made thus far, new developments and lessons learnt on African Liberation Programme.

Advocate Sonwabile Mancotywa CEO of the National Heritage Council gave the guests a warm welcome and said that this workshop serves as a way to engage with other SADC countries on the Liberation heritage, because the preservation and protection of our heritage sites is important to the history of Africa and its path to independence.

He further said that the aim to have a way-forward on the progression of the liberation heritage of Africa, in order to improve the richness in heritage and tourism in Africa to be able to meet the African Union’s vision for Africa 2063.

Advocate Mancotywa reiterated that this is a golden opportunity for Africa’s heritage consultants to contribute to that vision.

South Africa, as one of the previously colonized African countries has been on a constant search for mechanisms that strengthen and accelerate the development of a common national identity, thus the National Heritage Council is leading the National Liberation Route initiative.

He further added that it is important for South Africa to give recognition and honour those who contributed to the liberation struggle of our country in order for the government to give heritage the recognition it deserves.

All the present countries presented their reports and strides achieved on the Liberation heritage project during the workshop.

It was observed that most heritage sites in the SADC countries participating in the ‘Road to independence in Africa’ were not properly managed and preserved; community participation was lacking which defeats the purpose of making our heritage monuments a ‘living heritage’ where stories are narrated from the hearts of the communities.

There was also group work activity, where delegates where divided into four commissions that had to discuss and reach decisions on implementation strategies for Africa Liberation Heritage to have a common strategy; i.e. Types of nomination approached (serial national, serial trans-boundary, single sit, preferred options & sequencing; fundraising/sustainability of the liberation heritage process; continental coordination/creating African Agenda and Issues for resolution to improve trans-boundary issues.

The delegates agreed that heritage created during Africa’s liberation struggles was being left to fade with time; cultural heritage was an important element and instrument of the expression of human identity and that the protection and promotion of the Africa Liberation Heritage was an important strategy for fostering multi-cultural identities and enhancing dialogue within and between civilisations.

Some of the consensus reached amongst the delegates, was that the Liberation Heritage Committee needs to draft a model towards finding a common strategy for Africa’s Liberation heritage site to be listed as World Heritage Sites that all SADC countries can adhere to; a fund for LHR in Africa, development of an ATLAS for Liberation heritage sites, have a digital communication tool where all participating countries can keep contact, update on progress and challenges encountered.

Souayibou---LHR-workshopSouayibou Varissoo, Head of Programmes at AWFH (African World Heritage Fund) said that the main objective of the organisation is to see how the number of liberation heritage sites can be better improved to accelerate business in Africa. “We need to collectively improve the image of Africa through good management and presentation of our heritage sites”, he stressed.

Some of the challenges highlighted by the NHC from a South African context are that participation from other political parties lacks since not all political leaders have been part of the liberation struggle to democracy of the country. Other Sub-Saharan countries’ common challenges were that politicization, allocation of resources, proper management structures and systems research documents, inventory capacity building political interest is of necessity in this project.

Community involvement and other stakeholder engagement from regional to national level, whether segregated or not segregated and state bodies seemed to be the key ingredient in getting the support and active participation from all key stakeholders on the project.

All stakeholders need to be engaged; synergies need to be formed and momentum created because the nomination process takes a long time . A joint submission of the nominated sites is a process, as it requires enough funding and adequate skilled manpower to ensure that things are done properly.

Some of the solutions tabled by the groups are that Africa needs  to have its  own technical resources. Each and every country that is implementing the LHR programmes must be able to consult a technical team when it needs technical advise on how you manage the Liberation heritage programme; consolidation of report for mobilisation purpose. It was also proposed that the Africa World Heritage Fund (AWFH) should establish a liberation heritage fund where stakeholders can contribute.

It was however stressed that the participating countries should not only aim to list the site onto the World Heritage Site list but to ensure that the sites are preserved, protected and well-managed with narrators as community members.

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