Bid to protect KZN’s statues

2015-04-08 00:00

KZN’S HERITAGE association is frantically ­trying to identify all monuments in the province which could become targets of political vandalism.

Amafa has already identified 30 monuments scattered around the province and has asked all municipalities to account for monuments on their land as it scrambles to create a database.

The exercise comes amid a national debate over monuments symbolising colonialism, which was sparked by students at the University of Cape Town demanding the removal of the statue of British imperialist Cecil John Rhodes. They started their campaign by throwing faeces over the national monument.

Several statues around the country have since been defaced, while the Economic Freedom Fighters have openly called for and participated in the destruction of monuments.

Yesterday, ANC provincial regional secretary Sihle Zikalala called for the removal of all statues in the province that represent the country’s colonial and apartheid past.

Zikalala said the “offensive” monuments should be relegated to museums only for “reference purposes for those who want to view them”.

But Amafa acting CEO Lindi Msomi said she has yet to receive any communication asking them to remove a statue from a public space.

Msomi added that they would need compelling reasons before considering removing a monument.

“It depends on the reason, but we are ­concerned at the vandalism of statues as they are a part of our history. We have had ­monuments vandalised in the past by scrap ­metal thieves or people believing they have ­buried treasure beneath them, but not for ­political ­reasons,” said Msomi.

Amafa employees said the issue of ­monuments was complex, that they were graded differently and a few, such as the John Ross statue in Durban, are on private land.

Statues identified as possible targets include those of former Natal premiers Harry Escombe and John Robinson, as well as the statues of Queen Victoria in Durban and Pietermaritzburg.

Also on Amafa’s list are other Pietermaritzburg statues such as those of Sir Theophilus Shepstone, who was a Natal administrator of native affairs, and Afrikaner figures Piet Retief and Gert Maritz, after whom the KZN capital city is named.

The majority of monuments in the province are connected to the Anglo-Zulu and Anglo-Boer wars, and to the First and Second world wars.

They are located in towns as remote as Bulwer, while Farewall Square in Durban holds more monuments than any other single space in South Africa.

Zikalala said while the ANC could not make a judgment on every monument, it supported the idea of the removal of “contentious monuments” on principle.

“The issue runs a lot deeper and reveals our society is still divided by the colour line. Blacks still feel marginalised. We believe the ­monuments are a legacy of our painful past and represent oppression.”

Zikalala added that they should be “collected and put in the nearest museum” for reference purposes.

The DA has called the destruction of monuments a “diversion from constitutionalism”.

The party said in a national statement that history cannot be erased.

“To place the blame for a lack of progress on statues, many over a century old, makes a mockery of the cause of true transformation in our society.”

A little known lobby group called the Msane Tribe Heritage Trust claims it has been asking for the removal of Pietermaritzburg’s Queen Victoria and Sir Theophilus Shepstone statues since 2013, with little success, but did not want their cause “hijacked” by the EFF.

“We had called for the removal of colonial government heritage symbols at KwaZulu-Natal Parliament premises for a long time,” said trust chairperson Zwakele Msane.

He said they should be replaced by a monument recognising Saul Msane, one of the founders of the ANC.

Msunduzi municipal manager Mxolisi Nkosi said: “Most of the statues are within municipal buildings where security is generally provided. We have not reviewed the security thereof in the wake of the actions by the EFF, but, should the intelligence advise otherwise, we would have to upgrade the security.”

eThekwini spokesperson Tozi Mthethwa said several monuments in the city were located on council land and they had warned all security personnel “around such monuments to be extra vigilant”. “People caught defacing the statues may be prosecuted for malicious damage to municipal property,” she said.

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