Activist: Paul Kruger statue will be defaced until it is removed

2015-04-12 15:02

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Activist Sekhukhune says that Paul Kruger’s statue in Pretoria will be defaced until it is removed

When Karel Sekhukhune turned 18 in 2009, he did what he had always dreamt of: he changed the name he had hated since childhood.

A few days after his birthday, and without telling his parents because he no longer needed their consent, he went to the nearest home affairs office to effect the change.

When he later showed his parents his new ID book, bearing the name Sekhukhune Sekhukhune, they were not surprised – they’d always known how much he hated the name his grandfather had given him.

Today, the second-year Unisa law student is part of a campaign aimed at ridding the country of all apartheid symbols and gleefully talks about his role in defacing the Paul Kruger statue in Pretoria’s Church Square this week.

When City Press visited the statue at lunch time this week, Sekhukhune was handing out flyers to tourists, students and locals who were passing by or taking selfies with “Oom Paul”.

The flyers were about an Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) protest to force government to remove all statues of apartheid-era leaders in public spaces.

As municipal contractors were hosing off the green PVA paint that had been smeared on the statue in protest, Sekhukhune shouted, in front of the eight metro police officers guarding the statue: “Wash it, but we will be back with red paint next time!”

Sekhukhune says: “I felt oppressed all my life with a name like Karel. It felt like I was reborn in 2009. I hate these statues the same way I hated my name.”

Born in Ga-Sekhukhune, Limpopo, the 24-year-old has always been a vocal activist – he has been a member of the SA Students’ Congress and the ANC Youth League, and now belongs to the EFF.

He believes the fall of the Rhodes statue at the University of Cape Town and the defacing of others across the country have shown that only the youth can force government to change the country for the better.

“Every generation has to discover its own mission, and if the removal of statues is the beginning of a mission to transform the entire society, let’s do it. Why did we stop with changing street names only? Let’s change everything that needs to correctly reflect our history.”

He looks over at the statue, where dozens of people, mostly black youngsters, are taking pictures with the bronze effigy. “Look at them. It’s a shame seeing black people taking pictures with a man whose soldiers probably killed their ancestors. They don’t know anything, but we will liberate them.”

He believes freedom fighter Solomon Kalushi Mahlangu, who was hanged by the apartheid state, should take Kruger’s place because Mahlangu wanted harmony between black and white people, unlike many of those honoured with statues today.

“You can take Kruger to a museum and if people want to see him, they can go there. He’s been here since 1954 and he’s had his time. We will paint this statue red until they hire the contractor permanently to keep cleaning it, or they remove it completely because we cannot continue to publicly honour people who preached segregation?...?who thought they were the deputy Jesus Christs of South Africa. These people pillaged and killed black people in the name of white supremacy.”

Sekhukhune believes that the campaign is ultimately about transformation. He mentions the Afrikaners who chained themselves to the statue to defend it this week.

“If we have these statues removed, maybe they will start talking to us about transformation because, right now, nothing compels white South Africans to get involved. But if you deal with their forefathers, you touch them where it hurts and that’s a good thing because they will start to talk about how we can start living in harmony in this country,” said Sekhukhune.

He adds that when Chief Tshwane’s statue was unveiled in the city a few years ago, Afrikaners painted it in the colours of the old flag.

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