Envisaged new history curriculum must reflect all sides of the story

Image: Gallo Images/ IStock

Plans to overhaul the history curriculum, making it more Afro-centric and relevant to South African pupils, would be commendable if it was able to truthfully reflect all sides of our history.

The recently reappointed History Ministerial Task Team has its work cut out in this regard.

Growing up in Mohlonong village in Ga-Mashashane, Limpopo, I grappled with the history of my own people and the matter of my maternal grandfather, Jankie Lesiba Mothapo, serving in World War II (1941-1944).

He was part of what was commonly referred to as the British or Commonwealth forces, most probably under the second battalion of the Transvaal Scottish Regiment.

The old man stayed in the village of Mapeding and he met his maker towards the end of the 1984 winter season, whilst his birth date is recorded as June 28 1912 in then Northern Transvaal. With his passing being a few months before my sixth birthday, all that is left of his war diary is an old scrap of paper.

His WWII journey began on July 10 1941 from Potchefstroom, North West, travelling by road to Durban, setting sail through the Indian Ocean, docking in Madagascar and Mauritius along the way.

The forces ultimately arrived in British Somaliland, a former British protectorate in present-day Somalia.

His feet touched and his eyes saw the Garden of Eden, the Red Sea, the Mediterranean Sea, Jerusalem, the river Jordan and Sodoma.

He was, along with some of the other soldiers, captured by German forces in the 1942 Siege of Tobruk, in the eastern part of present-day Libya, then an Italian territory.

Their escape took place in the still of the night, where they travelled for 40 days before reuniting with fellow soldiers one evening.

His part in the war ended in Turkey, before returning home in March 1944.

For the longest time he was among the people who took care of the Malvern tennis courts in Johannesburg, until his retirement.

My hope is that Field Marshal Bernard "General Monty" Montgomery, the man who apparently took the statement of my old man's escape in Tobruk, could give me details on what happened during the capture and in the war generally.

The old man is now resting peacefully side-by-side with his wife Raesetja Rebecca née Moshweu.

The matriarch was largely responsible for helping me piece together the old man's story.

Often, such lessons would take place as Mango Groove's song Special Star was pumping through our home theatre system.

The history lessons at Madenathaga Primary School had proven to be one-sided and, as Marcus Garvey had warned, "a people without the knowledge of their past history, origin and culture is like a tree without roots".

Though military literature and history might not be favouring my old man with a mention of his role in the war, his story and that of other black men who served in the war deserves to be told.

The decision by the government to rewrite our history is certainly a step in the right direction.

- Maubane is a public relations strategist and the president of the Public Relations Institute of Southern Africa (Prisa). He writes in his personal capacity

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