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“African identity is under threat; our children are confused about who they are,” said Nokuzola Mndende, a researcher at the Institute for Comparative Religion in South Africa at Cape Town University.

Mndende made the remarks at the weekend during a conference to discuss the conservation of African religion, culture and language.

She blamed the national broadcaster for misinforming the public about African people and what they are about.

“The national broadcaster is obliterating our African culture,” Mndende said.

The cultural activist made reference to a number of local television programmes she said were offensive to Africans, such as Ubizo and Intsika, aired on SABC1.

“Even in school, our black children are taught Christian prayers instead of African practices – that is exactly what the apartheid government did by imposing one religion for the country, which was Christianity,” said Mndende.

The event brought together people from African indigenous religions and Jewish and Muslim communities.

Different religious groups strategised and learned from each other on how to ensure their cultural and religious heritages were not diminished.

Mndende said politicians and other religious institutions were also suppressing African religion.

“There is no real freedom in South Africa because there is no freedom of religion for Africans.”

She recommends that schools dedicated to teaching about the African religion and African people be initiated.

“They may silence us from the top but we will teach the youth about who they are at the bottom.

“We will be embarking on a mass campaign to educate the youth,” she said.

A traditional healer, John Sithole, said people were losing faith in his abilities because of what they see or hear in the media about African religion.

“I am always at the SABC complaining about something. What I do is serious – it is a calling, not a joke,” said Sithole.

Ashraf Docrat, an Islam leader, told the conference that Islam was also facing some challenges in preserving its identity in a foreign country.

“Technology and the internet are posing a challenge. A lot of our youth are being misled. Consumerism, materialism and the breakdown of the family unit are also a threat,” he said.

A Jewish leader said the faith was facing major challenges but was able to carry down its existence through the centuries by archiving and finding Jewish-affiliated schools.

Young people at the conference said they were struggling to fit in because of the globalised nature of the country.

“We look up to the people we see on television who are practising other cultures, despite being black, and those who speak the queen’s language,” said one of the speakers.

Yvonne Kgame, an executive SABC manager, said the broadcaster was being misled by producers and directors who claim to know more about the African people.

She said an advisory board would be set up to oversee accurate broadcasting of different cultural and religious practises. Members of traditional religion would also get the opportunity to advise on African content. “We are trying to do our best to correct our errors,” she said.

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