Gandhi committee ‘shocked’ at attack on statue

2008-08-27 00:00

The Pietermaritzburg Gandhi Memorial Committee yesterday expressed shock and disappointment at the attack on the statue of Mahatma Gandhi in Church Street on Tuesday afternoon.

An enraged couple captured the vandalism on a cellphone.The footage was posted on The Witness website.

It shows an unidentified man repeatedly striking the statue with what appears to be a bottle.

David Gengan, public relations officer of the committee, said the statue is in a public place so as to show that Gandhi was a man of the people.

“It is a shame that we are compelled to put up a fence to protect the statue.

“The people of Pietermaritzburg should feel that they own the statue. We cannot remove the statue to a safer place because of the significance of Gandhi to the people of the city,” said Gengan.

Msunduzi municipal manager Rob Haswell said the statue has pride of place in the city centre.

“It also attracts visitors to the city. People come especially to visit the station and the Gandhi statue. It is very important that we look at improving security around the statue, but the last thing we want to do is to cage it in,” he said.

He appealed to the public to take pride in the city and its memorials.

Haswell said the municipality will meet the Gandhi committee in an effort to find ways to protect the statue against vandalism.

Ros Devereux of the heritage body Amafa echoed Gengan’s sentiments saying the statue should be treated with dignity.

“Although our organisation is not responsible for the maintenance and protection of the statue, we are concerned because it has a significant heritage status. We are in a process to register the Gandhi statue into our register of memorials,” said Devereux.

An eyewitness to Tuesday’s incident, Edwin James, said he is still in distress about what he saw.

“I always look up to Gandhi as a remarkable leader. Whenever I and my daughter go past the statue, she rushes past me and says ‘Good morning Gandhi’ — that alone gives life to Gandhi and acts as a reminder of what he fought for.

“ It is a disgrace that a vandal like this was not brought to book. He attacked it in front of the surveillance camera, but municipal security never acted,” James said.

Lucas Holtzhausen, the general manager of Vision Technologies, the company responsible for monitoring CCTV cameras in the city, said the camera at the site was broken recently. He added that it was possible that the camera was off-line at the time.

It is not the first time that the statue had been vandalised. In the past, Gandhi’s glasses have been stolen. The committee replaced the “glasses” from time to time until it decided that it was too costly.

Gengan said there have been incidents where people stuck cans and threw used condoms at the statue. Recently, the statue has become home to a street performer who poses like Gandhi to entertain passersby.

The base of the statue is smeared with white powder that the performer uses to paint his face.

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