Statue’s costly facelift

2010-06-04 00:00

JUDGING from previous charges, Kwa­Zulu-Natal taxpayers are set to pay more than R3 million for changes to the King Shaka statue that the provincial government has commissioned, following its hasty removal from King Shaka Airport on Wednesday evening.

The statue was removed after complaints from the Zulu royal family that it is not an authentic depiction of the founder of the Zulu nation, after whom the new airport is named.

The statue, which shows the king tending a herd of Nguni cattle, is very different from the usual portraits of King Shaka as a strong Zulu warrior.

Premier Zweli Mkhize’s spokesperson, Ndabezinhle Sibiya, would not be drawn to estimate how much the altered statue will cost, but confirmed that R3 million was paid by the provincial government for the initial work. It is expected that the new project will cost more as new features are going to be added.

“It is too early to say how much the new statue is going to cost. At the moment the task team is busy with the work of gathering more information on how it should look like and which new features should be added,” Sibiya said.

The statue, commissioned by the provincial government, was made by renowned sculptor Andries Botha, who will be involved in the alterations. It raised eyebrows as it was the first image of an unarmed King Shaka.

It was on display for barely a month before its removal on Wednesday.

Mkhize said about the debate surrounding the statue: “While we welcome debate, we also hope for a lively but responsible exchange of ideas that will enrich our heritage and ensure that our culture is preserved and reflected as accurately as possible for future generations.”

Opposition parties criticised the provincial government for not consulting widely before the design of the statue was decided.

Said IFP KZN public accounts spokesperson Dr Lionel Mtshali, “The statue is now to be redesigned and this will inevitably incur wasteful expenditure to the provincial fiscus.

Mtshali said the IFP hopes the episode will serve as a lesson about the importance of consulting all relevant stakeholders in all future publicly funded projects.

“We should either abandon consultation altogether or conduct it with the seriousness it deserves,” he said.

DA caucus leader in the KwaZulu-Natal Legislature, John Steenhuisen, said his party is “deeply unhappy” and he called on MECs and officials responsible to be liable for costs incurred.

“The statue was commissioned at huge cost and should have been through the various stages of consultation and research at the commissioning phase rather than after its completion. If the statue is presently unsuitable, the DA suggests that those MECs and officials who approved the design in the first place should be liable for any additional costs, rather than the taxpayers of this province.

“[Now] visitors arriving at King Shaka International Airport will not be able to see artwork depicting the person for whom the airport is named, despite R3 million of taxpayers’ money [being spent] on just such a statue.”

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