Relocation of statue endorsed

The MT Steyn statue at the University of the Free State (UFS) will be moved to the War Museum in Bloemfontein.

Limakatso Mahasa, MEC for Sport, Arts, Culture and Recreation, has endorsed the relocation.

According to the university, it has also been informed that a permit will be issued by the Free State Heritage Resources Authority (FSHRA) for the dismantling, temporary storage and relocation of the statue to the War Museum.

Although the FSHRA’s appeal committee decided on 20 August 2019 to uphold appeals from interested parties and keep the statue at the UFS, Prof. Francis Petersen, rector and vice-chancellor of the UFS, submitted an urgent request to Mahasa to appoint a tribunal and refer the university’s appeal in terms of and in accordance with the provisions of Section 49 (2) of the Natio­nal Heritage Resources Act.

Petersen appointed a special task team to develop and implement a framework to engage with a review process on the position of the statue in front of the main building on the Bloemfontein campus.

“The university’s executive appreciates Mahasa’s endorsement and is satisfied with the findings of the tribunal committee, which supports the relocation of the statue,” Petersen said.

“The university council approved the relocation of the statue on 23 November 2018, after which an extensive process was followed to obtain a permit from the FSHRA to relocate the statue. The special task team went to great lengths to demonstrate the thoroughness of the public participation process and other supportive steps taken by the university.

“As there is no precedent for such a public participation process under the current South African law, the special task team was guided by the principles of fairness, inclusivity and objectivity. It was not an easy process, but the outcome is a significant milestone,” said Petersen.

According to Petersen, the tribunal committee found that the university followed the correct application procedure for the permit and implemented a proper public participation process that was even more comprehensive than required by law.

In addition, no procedural unfairness took place during the public participation process.

Petersen said the tribunal committee found that the FSHRA’s decision to issue the permit was correct, and that the appeals committee appointed by the FSHRA erred in its decision to uphold the appeal.

“As a precondition, the tribunal committee also determined that a conservation plan must be prepared by the university in order to address the process of relocation,” Petersen said.

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