KZN’s monuments contribute ‘immensely towards our economy’

2015-04-08 00:00

KWAZULU-NATAL has 90 monuments and statues and almost all are from the apartheid and colonial eras.

Yet their value to the provincial ­economy is estimated at over R1 billion per annum, with over 140 000 ­international tourists visiting KZN monuments every year.

The monuments, listed in the database of Amafa KZN Heritage, are mostly ­representations from both World Wars as well as the Anglo-Zulu and ­Anglo-Boer wars.

More than 20 are in ­eThekwini, with nine in Msunduzi and 14 in the Lady­smith area.

They include the Royal Irish Fusiliers (1st Battalion) Monument and ­Manchester Memorial in Ladysmith, and the Voortrekker Monument in Camperdown, while memorials to the World Wars are widespread in almost every pre-1994 local council area.

The province has since erected ­monuments speaking to the Zulu ­nation, including those of King ­Dinizulu in Durban and Greytown, King Shaka in Stanger and the Bhambhata Statue in Greytown. Pietermaritzburg has its Mahatma ­Gandhi statue.

Explorers Bartholomew Dias and Vasco da Gama are both recognised on Durban’s Margaret Mncadi Avenue (formerly Victoria Embankment).

Farewell Square in Durban, which has more statues and monuments in one place than any other in the country, is also home to the memorial plaques to the first white settlers while the statue of the Lady in White, Perla Siedle-Gibson, who sang to outgoing troops at Durban Harbour during World War 2, is situated on Point Road.

Historian and KZN battlefields tour guide Ken Gillings said statues ­commemorating people and incidents during the various wars were erected to “remind us of bravery and commitment by both sides of the spectrum”.

Gillings said battlefield and heritage tourism contributes “immensely ­towards our economy”.

“The number of jobs that have been created directly by this sector are in ­excess of 7 500 in 2011.

“Potential heritage tourists are going to be reluctant to visit South Africa if they see that these relics of a bygone era are being destroyed.

“The removal of these statues and monuments won’t erase the history of this country. You can’t change history. It ­happened,” said Gillings.

KZN premier spokesperson Thami Ngwenya said premier Senzo Mchunu has taken note of the “evolving debate and actions … with regard to statues of certain historical figures of our ­country”.

“This is a national debate and we have confidence that the Department of Arts and Culture as entrusted with issues of national heritage, will handle all emergent issues including facilitating the necessary debate in the best way possible for the country,”said Ngwenya.

Earlier this week, Arts and Culture Minister Nathi Mthethwa said the government has not yet received any formal ­application for the removal of any ­statue in any part of the country.

“It must be emphasised that the ­National Heritage Resources Act of 1999 stipulates particular technical as well as consultative processes that should be followed in the case of a removal and or relocation of a statue.”

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