IFP mayor threatens to sue premier over claims about cross

2009-03-09 00:00

Premier S’bu Ndebele may face legal action if he does not apologise to the mayor of the uThungulu District Council, Stan Larkan, over accusations that he desecrated the memorial to Zulu martyr Maqhamusela Khanyile.

Larkan has labelled the premier’s attempts to blame him for the damage to the cross as “pre-election shenanigans”. Larkan is the IFP mayor and a councillor at the Umlalazi Municipality.

He told The Witness he is disappointed. “What made it worse was that parties have signed an agreement to stop rhetoric and allegations in the run-up to the April 22 elections,” he added.

Larkan’s attorney wrote to Ndebele last week demanding an unconditional apology, confirmation that any charges have been withdrawn and the suspension of any investigation that involves Larkan as a suspect.

The premier’s office responded by saying that the matter was “merely reported to the SAPS who are unlikely to charge anyone if there is no evidentiary basis …”

The premier also asked Larkan to confirm whether there was any written document in which Amafa, the provincial heritage conservation agency for KwaZulu Natal, granted authority for Umlalazi Municipality to remove the cross.

Larkan told The Witness that Amafa’s CEO, Barry Marshall, had asked him to remove the cross.

This was confirmed in a letter Marshall sent to the premier’s office last Friday. Marshall said in the letter that Larkan had told him in January the cross on the memorial had been damaged.

“I ascertained that the cross was not in a condition to be left on the memorial and that it needed to be replaced. I asked that it be removed and stored until a decision with regard to its future could be made.”

Marshall told the premier that he recommended that the fibreglass cross be replaced with a “more durable material” such as marble, but this needed to be discussed at an Amafa council meeting to be held in April.

In the letter Marshall apologises for any misunderstanding. “I honestly do not believe that any deliberate vandalism took place and that all concerned acted in good faith.”

Ndebele was quoted in an isiZulu newspaper last week as saying the government plans to make an example of Larkan so that those who destroy monuments learn to respect them. Ndebele said Larkan should fix the monument with his own money.

Larkan said he had nothing to do with any damage to the memorial. Rather, he had cared for it for many years. He said that while preparing for a visit by a delegation from Norway, he found the site in a derelict state with portions of the cross broken off and lying on the ground. The gate lock seemed to have been forced and the fence was damaged.

In the letter to Ndebele, Larkan’s attorney said Larkan had contracted casual labour to clean up the site.

The damaged cross is now at the engineering department of the Umlalazi Municipality.

Johann Goosen, Larkan’s attorney, said Ndebele has not responded satisfactorily, and that legal action is being considered.

Logan Maistry, the premier’s spokesman, would only say that the outcome of the police investigation is awaited.

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