“Break them down” is the cry of radical youth from organisations like the EFF and the ANC Youth League. “Leave them alone” shout the right wingers like Afriforum, while some argue you cannot wish away the past which is represented by these statues.
So far, statues of Cecil John Rhodes in Cape Town, King George V in Durban, the AngloBoer war statue in Port Elizabeth and now Paul Kruger in Pretoria have all been vandalised.
In Port Elizabeth, its 110-year-old Horse Memorial erected in memory of horses who served and died in the Second Boer War shows a kneeling soldier holding a bucket of water for his horse, was vandalised. The soldier was ripped off the plinth on Monday.
The EFF has called for its supporters to remove the statue of Jan van Riebeeck’s arrival in the Cape from Adderley Street in Cape Town, before its 363rd anniversary on Monday.
But others, like veteran anti-apartheid activist Albie Sachs have offered another way. It is a strategy that Cope supports. Sachs has been quoted as saying that instead of trying to blot out our history, we should be creative with statues “to demonstrate the way white domination has been glorified in the past”.
“Instead of extinguishing Rhodes, we should keep him alive on the campus and force him, even if posthumously, to witness surroundings that tell him and the world that he is now living in a constitutional democracy,” Sachs said.
AfriForum youth chairperson Henk Maree said such statues are part of the heritage of South Africa.
“By removing them, we are smothering the healthy debate on and reinterpretation of our past,” Maree said.
ANC spokesperson Zizi Kodwa said South Africa must continue to engage on how best we preserve this painful history so that we never forget, in support of our young democracy.
“Statues and other such symbols are tragic reminders of a divided and exclusionary South Africa, which oppressed the black majority.
It cannot be wished away nor their memory erased. Collectively, we have a responsibility and obligation to never forget, lest future generations were to repeat the mistakes of the past,” Kodwa said.
He said the calls for statues to fall are a symptom of a lack of transformation in the institutions and society.
Meanwhile, one of the world’s most visited parks in our country named after Paul Kruger –Kruger National Park -was destroyed and EFF has claimed responsible for the damage.
But according to the minister of arts & culture Nathi Mthethwa, people should rather approach their provincial heritage agencies if they feel they need to remove a Statue than demolish/deface it.