The Need to Rewrite South African History. (Opinion)

By Ntloedibe, Llias. L. | New African, March 2001 | Go to article overview
Save to active project

The Need to Rewrite South African History. (Opinion)

Ntloedibe, Llias. L., New African

If reconciliation is to succeed, the rewriting of South African history must be considered a priority. A committee should be formed to rid the history books of 'objectionable material' as this will ensure reconciliation and set a healthy attitude for a new South Africa.

If it is true that history is nothing but the succession of the separate generations, each of which exploits the materials, capital funds and the productive forces handed down to it by all preceding generations, as Karl Max observed, then we must agree that people DO make their own history, but they DO NOT make it under self-selected conditions to circumstances but under already existing circumstances, given and transmitted from the past.

We must therefore further agree that social life and behaviour are thus to be found in earthly and not mystical facts. It is the productive forces and relations that are the motivating power in human history. These forces are not determined capriciously, or by the will of the individual, but are the products of previous stages of development.

In this sense, people do not make history as they please. They inherit from an ongoing process of development. Within this understanding and orientation, it therefore becomes necessary and imperative that the history of South Africa must be rewritten to reflect the true state of affairs of the development of the African people in this country, and not the distortions and falsifications found in present history textbooks used in our schools.

Authors of these history textbooks are primarily concerned with the achievements of white people in South Africa and their relations with one another. The group focus is seen in the structures of the works as well as the interpretation they give to events.

One might say that the society of South Africa has been rigidly stratified which has made the writing of the history of this country a mammoth task. However, a problem could have been overcome or avoided had those "responsible" authors not taken the experiences and activities of other inhabitants, namely the so-called Coloureds, Africans and Asians as problems for the whites.

The limitations of South Africa's current history books are a product of the social milieu in a plural society where communication between the different communities was restricted and the individual historian was conditioned by the assumptions and prejudices of his own community -- be it the community of religion or class or language or a hybrid of them.

In South Africa, the writing of history was used as a powerful instrument for the perpetuation and maintenance of inequalities. The misleading aspects include this one that says the African people of South Africa migrated from the Great Lakes Region of Central Africa, and that white people arrived by sea at the same time as the Africans were arriving from the Great Lakes. The implication is that the white people found an unoccupied land. Hence the claim that the land belongs to them too.

It must be clear that the African people never came. They are indigenous people of this country. This myth of simultaneous migrations was used on several occasions by the whites even at international forums to justify their domination and oppression of the indigenous African people.

Thus, on 24 October 1974, Pik Botha, the foreign minister of apartheid South Africa, declared to the United Nations Security Council: "About the middle of the 17th century, the white and black peoples of southern Africa converged on what was then most uninhabited part of the continent."

In a Standard 8 (Grade 10) history book published in 1974, for instance, we read: "Southern Africa is not originally the home of the southern Bantu who are immigrants as are whites. It is not known when the vanguard of the movement reached South Africa, but there is evidence that it was in or just before the 15th century" [sic].

The vast majority of books about South Africa by non-South Africans make history begin by Bartholomew Diaz's so-called discovery of the Cape of Good Hope in 1844 and only mention the Africans from the time of their meeting with whites in about 1778.

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Cite this article

Cited article

Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)


1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25,

Cited article

The Need to Rewrite South African History. (Opinion)


Text size Smaller Larger
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

While we understand printed pages are helpful to our users, this limitation is necessary to help protect our publishers' copyrighted material and prevent its unlawful distribution. We are sorry for any inconvenience.
Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25,

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.