We must know where we are if we want to know where to go

Date: 07 January 2021   Read: 16710

By Dr Ntavhanyeni Sampie Phaswana

As a democratic society with a diverse population of different cultures, languages, and religions, we are duty bound to ensure that we develop a unity of purpose and spirit that recognises and celebrates our diversity.

In society, people carry within themselves certain patterns of thinking, behaviour, and feelings that are learned throughout their lifetime. As soon as some of these patterns of thinking, behaviour, and feelings establish themselves within a person’s mind, “culture” is formed. Culture is “learned habits”.

Culture is always a collective phenomenon because it is at least partly shared with people who live within the same social environment. It is a collective programming of the mind that distinguishes the members of one group or category of people from another. It is not from one’s genes.

Murendeni Muhali, a broadcast journalist who currently serves as bulletin editor for SABC’s Phalaphala FM news desk, is an excellent example to all, young and old, in terms of respect in line with her culture as a young Muvenda woman.

One will always feel humbled by her response each time she is been addressed by her colleagues, especially the veteran Mpho Nefale. At the end of her presentation Mr Nefale would call her name, after which Murendeni will respond by saluting Mr Nefale in a unique and humble manner.

Her words “Aaa Vho Nefale!” will echo throughout your day if you are raised well.

You can sense respect and humility on air. According to Vhavenda tradition, respect by both men and women is embedded in their culture as the highest mark of honour accorded to human beings. When people met each other, they showed respect by greeting each other. Men took off their hats. Women knelt, lay the tips of their fingers together in a Venda salute. Men would exclaim “Ndau ya nduna!” “Lion! Beast of prey!” to which women would respond “Aaa!”

In the past, young girls and women knelt down as soon as a superior person came towards them, and remain kneeling until that person had passed, whereupon they would resume their way. Every salute was adapted to the occasion.

The plural was always, however, employed as if one were addressing several people. Little children were called “thou”, adults were addressed as “you” and the chief or some other dignitary was addressed in the plural.

Murendeni Muhali is for most of her listeners a very cardinal cultural pillar of the whole social organisation of the Vhavenda and many indigenous groups in Africa and South Africa. Some people are of the view that culture and tradition are for the uneducated. This is far from the truth. Murendeni Muhali has a post-graduate diploma in journalism from Rhodes University. She also has a Bachelor of Economics degree from the University of Venda. Her certificate in Management Principles for First-Line Manager is from the University of South Africa. She is now doing her Masters’ degree in financial journalism.

Because of the rapid societal changes brought about by globalisation and other factors, many good customs are now falling into decay.

It is resolute personalities like Murendeni Muhali who, through her actions, can educate the masses of “modernised” youth to treat each other with respect.

The fact that Murendeni was born at Ha Luvhimbi Georgenholtz to pastors Pax (father) and Tendani (mother) did not guarantee that she was going to be well mannered. It is a choice she made. And so can the majority of our young people.

Irrespective of our cultural differences, each one of us can go back and polish his/her good cultural practices and become better persons in the process.

How many men do still open cars for women before they drive? How many do stand up at a table when women are standing up? Don’t we see men talking to ladies wearing their hats? How many do talk with food in their mouth?

The high incidence of violent crime in our country is somehow linked to the way we do things as a society. We need to take lessons from Murendeni that you cannot address the President of the Republic as “Cyril”. It is wrong and disrespectful to all South Africans.

The future of the human race will be determined by the quality of the education today’s young people receive. Our education system should enhance the practice of positive values, attitudes, and skills in the individual and the community. When knowledge is acquired in conjunction with the skills necessary to utilise such knowledge, an opportunity is created for people to live meaningful lives.

Inadequate insight into ourselves and our relationships with others, as well as an insufficient understanding of the interdependence of the different facets of communities and cultural groupings, will assuredly lead to an under-utilisation of knowledge, a high crime rate and moral degeneration.

Unfortunately, the majority of South Africans are fond of resisting change. Being resistant to change doesn’t stop it from happening. We know that adapting quickly to significant change is easier said than done. Embracing and implementing change are keys to being a valuable and valued citizen. To respond positively to change, despite being fearful of it or resistant to it, we should define and acknowledge what is over and what is not. Jump on the bandwagon early. Be clear about what you need to learn in order to implement the change and take the initiative to do so. Wherever we are, we need to educate our children so that our country is filled with people like Murendeni Muhali. The reality of the matter is that those who engage sooner rather than later will be noticed and remembered … and so will those who go kicking and screaming.

Within each one of us is a hidden store of energy. Energy we can release to compete in the marathon of life. Each of us should do something every day that we do not want to do but we know we should do, to strengthen our backbone and put iron in our soul.

Some of us have great runways already built for us. If you have one, take off!

But if you don’t have one, realise it is your responsibility to grab a shovel and build one for yourself and for those who will follow after you.

We are where we are because of the thousands of choices that we have made, and we need to understand the true impact that those choices have made on our lives. We can still choose today and go back to our roots, to be better equipped for a generation of values, norms, and principles.

We simply must know where we are if we’re going to get where we want to go. We must have a starting place. Right here. Right now.

If something is important to you, you will find time to do it. Hold a funeral to “I can’t!” and say hello to “I can”. After all - a horse that pulls an honest load has no time to kick. It is good and imperative to do something good now because yesterday is but a dream and tomorrow is only a vision, but today well lived makes yesterday a dream of happiness, and every tomorrow a vision of hope. Although no one can go back and make a brand-new start, we can start from now and make a brand-new end.

To leave footprints in the sands of time, you have to keep on the move.

As far as possible, be on good terms with all persons. This is a fundamental universal cultural phenomenon. We should all of us guard against a situation where ethical standards in public life are found wanting.

Murendeni Muhali is a beacon of hope in a society whose environment is full of cultural prejudices and presuppositions.




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