University of Free State removes statue of Boer Republic president MT Steyn

Students protested the MT Steyn statue at the University of Free State in Bloemfontein. (Conrad Bornman, Gallo Images, Volksblad)
Students protested the MT Steyn statue at the University of Free State in Bloemfontein. (Conrad Bornman, Gallo Images, Volksblad)
Conrad Bornman, Gallo Images, Volksblad
  • The University of the Free State has started dismantling the statue of Marthinus Theunis (MT) Steyn on its Bloemfontein campus. 
  • Steyn was president of the Orange Free State Boer republic until the end of the Anglo-Boer War. 
  • The statue will be reassembled at the War Museum in Bloemfontein. 

The University of the Free State (UFS) started dismantling the MT Steyn statue situated in front of the Main Building on its Bloemfontein campus over the weekend.

READ | President MT Steyn statue to be relocated to a site off UFS campus

Steyn was the sixth and last president of the independent Orange Free State Boer republic from 1896 to 1902.

According to a statement by UFS, this comes after the Permit Committee of the Free State Provincial Heritage Resources Authority (FSPHRA) issued a permit to the university on 11 June to dismantle, store and relocate the statue to the War Museum in Bloemfontein.

As stipulated in the permit, the university subsequently submitted a Conservation Management Plan to the committee for consideration, which was approved on 17 June.

Arrangements were subsequently made for the dismantling and storage of the statue. 

"We are in the process of finalising an agreement with the War Museum for the relocation of the statue. The agreement protects the university and the museum and it is not a contract or a condition for the relocation of the statue as this forms part of the provisions in the permit.

"The agreement should be concluded in the coming week and the statue can then be relocated to the museum," said Professor Francis Petersen, rector and vice-chancellor of the UFS. 

ALSO READ | EXPLAINER: Why UFS quietly removed a statue of president MT Steyn

Reassembling at War Museum

The provisions in the permit stipulated that the university must prepare a Conservation Management Plan that will address the process to be undertaken to relocate the statue indicating the team to be appointed for the dismantling, temporary storage and reassembling of the statue at the War Museum; the Heritage Architect that will be appointed to oversee the process; and that the wishes of the Steyn Family should be accommodated.

"The university's Special Task Team excelled in putting together a comprehensive Conservation Management Plan and I would like to acknowledge them for the remarkable way in which they facilitated the entire process up until now," said Petersen. 

He added that the Permit Committee had thanked the university for its sustained diligence in pursuing the matter in line with best heritage practices.

"There is no precedent for such a process under current South African legislation and I am please for the way in which it has been concluded. We will now proceed to reinterpret the site in front of the Main Building into a symbolic inclusive public space that advances nation building and social cohesion."

Background

Steyn was born on 2 October 1857 in Winburg, outside Bloemfontein, and died on 28 November 1916 at the age of 58 in Bloemfontein.

He was a lawyer, politician and statesman. Apart from the statue at the university, he was remembered for his ideals and contributions, together with his family friend Emily Hobhouse, through the unveiling of the National Women's Memorial on 16 December 1913.

The National Women's Memorial in Bloemfontein was the first monument in the world that was dedicated to women and children. 

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