Statue vandalism is a criminal act - Mapisa-Nqakula

2015-04-14 18:27
Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula. (GCIS)

Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula. (GCIS)

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Johannesburg - The vandalising of statues and memorials was a criminal act and was contrary to the principles of South Africa's Constitution, Defence Minister Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula said on Tuesday.

"Government is aware of the sentiments in the country relating to our racist and colonial past," she told journalists in Cape Town and via video link in Pretoria.

"We do understand the frustration from sections of our society who may feel the programme of building new heritage architecture is moving slowly. It must be emphasised that [as] much as we understand these frustrations, there are processes that need to be followed to deal with any of these matters related to the monuments."

The issue of colonial-era statues has been of national interest over the past month, sparked by the defacing of the Cecil John Rhodes statue at the University of Cape Town on March 9. The university's council, following a unanimous recommendation by its senate, voted to remove the statue on Wednesday. The statue was removed from it's position on Thursday. 

Since March 9, other statues have also been targeted. Those targeted include statues of Paul Kruger in Pretoria, Louis Botha in Cape Town, a war memorial in Uitenhage, a memorial to animals that died in the Boer War in Port Elizabeth, and most recently over the weekend, the statue of Mahatma Gandhi in Johannesburg. 

Molefe Maile, 21, arrested for allegedly throwing white paint on the Gandhi statue, appeared in the Johannesburg Magistrate’s Court on Monday on charges of malicious damage to property.

He was released on R5 000 bail and was expected to be back in court on May 8.

Mapisa-Nqakula said there were laws in place that regulated the removal and preservation of "any undesirable historic monument".

"The National Heritage Resources Act of 1999 outlines the consultative processes that should be followed in the case of a removal and or relocation of a statue," the minister said.

"It is important that everything is done in an orderly fashion and according to the laws of the land. We remind our people that the destruction of statues is illegal."

Vandalising and destroying statues constituted a crime, and would force police to protect such memorials. This would in turn take away resources from fighting other crimes.

"If the processes for dealing with these matters were followed in an orderly manner, there would be no need to divert resources to guarding the statues," the minister said.

"However, government will not turn a blind eye on any crime. Destruction of any property is a criminal offence and those that are involved will face the full might of the law."

Read more on:    nosiviwe mapisa-nqakula  |  crime  |  monuments debate

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