Groot Marico residents: We don’t need a Zuma statue, we need sanitation

Zeerest - The narrow roads are lined with pot holes and residents walk great distances to draw drinking water from the river. Welcome to Groot Marico.   

Named after the Groot-Marico River - one of the few perennial rivers in this area - despite its name, the North West town is very small.

The town's website boasts that Groot-Marico renowned for its beautiful African bushveld surroundings and special kind of hospitality. "It is the ideal place to come to when you want to escape the hustle and bustle of the city life," it suggests.

On Wednesday the town welcomed President Jacob Zuma to the unveiling of the R1.8m monument that replaced plans to erect a multi-million rand, life-sized sculpture of Zuma.

The monument, at the entrance of the town, is symbolic to 1963 when Zuma, along with 51 others, were arrested by the apartheid security branch police.

READ: Zuma recounts apartheid police arrest

While the North West government defended its decision to erect the monument, opposition parties accused it of abusing public funds.

"We reject this statue as a monument of corruption, and it must be added to all the statues that must fall," said the EFF.

The monument's unveiling was heavily criticised on Twitter, with many questioning surrounding the need for the monument.

The residents of Groot Marico are also so divided.

Llewellyn Kriel, who was born in Groot Marico and returned to the town a year ago, said he has nothing against the erections of statues and memorials for communities to commemorate.

But he added: "There is a dire need for clean water, sanitation, for better roads, jobs and housing. There is a far better way to spend nearly R2m than erecting a statue."

The father of two said the money could have been rather been spent on a four-year uncomplete sanitation project in the area.

Pie in the sky promises

"I think all of these promises about income being generated from this statue are just pie in the sky promises," said Kriel.

Pensioner Bokkie Harmse, who strongly agreed with Kriel, said residents are forced to fetch water from the local river.

"People are suffering in this town. That million rands could have helped so many community members."

She also decried the state of the roads and crime in the area. "They steal the tap heads and the pipes," Harmse said.

'Zuma is a wonderful man'

However, Joseph Simpson, also a pensioner, who often visits his family in the town, said the president deserves the statue.  

"Zuma is a wonderful man; he is a very good human being."

Also speaking fondly of the president was Tsungai Masangwe.

Masangwe moved to South Africa from Zimbabwe in 2012 and sells second-hand clothes and goods from a garage which she rents for R250.

"I was happy to see Zuma so close to me because in Zimbabwe I can’t see my president," she said.

Masangwe, however said some of the money spent on the monument could have been utilised to help battling business people like herself.

"People support me, but I am struggling to get stuff. If I get money, maybe I can grow my business," she said.

        The monument in Groot Marico in honour of President Jacob Zuma. (Iavan Pijoos, News24)

       The monument in Groot Marico in honour of President Jacob Zuma. (Iavan Pijoos, News24)

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