The South African

Mooted removal of Apartheid-era statues polarises South Africans

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The Democratic Alliance (DA) says the final report of the task team established to gauge public sentiment regarding South African statues, signs and monuments be made public.

DA MP Veronica van Dyk, the party’s Deputy Shadow Minister for Sports, Arts and Culture, said while her party is not opposed to the auditing and possible movement of certain statues, it is not a project that should be undertaken lightly and without extensive public consultation.

And as Heritage Month draws to a close, the debate around whether or not to remove statues of historical apartheid figures has been heating up, with support mainly from the Black section of the population while drawing the ire of the White populace.

Presidential endorsement

Marking the year’s Heritage Day which celebrates South Africa’s diverse cultures, President Cyril Ramaphosa said “any symbol, monument or activity that glorifies racism, that represents our ugly past, has no place in democratic South Africa.”

“Monuments glorifying our divisive past should be re-positioned and relocated.”

Ramaphosa said the removal of the statues shouldn’t be taken as erasing of history, but as a way of “being sensitive to the lived experiences of all this country’s people.”

The Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) has joined the chorus supporting the move to ditch apartheid-era symbols.

No blanket approach

The DA, however, believes that every statue or monument must be dealt with individually – “there is no “one size fits all” blanket approach that can be adopted.”

“Decisions of this nature has to take into consideration the views of the community in which a particular statue or monument is located, as well as alternative solutions to outright removal – these may include erecting a plaque to provide historical context to, or more information about, a statue or monument; or allowing for the statue to be removed to a museum or to private property.”

Van Dyk said her party rejects the movement of apartheid-era statues to so-called theme parks or heritage parks for cultural nation building as this opens up the gates to a single “government-controlled narrative of South Africa’s history.”

“Our nation’s history lies in our stories. Our stories are not the property of any government.”

Transparency

The process must be entirely transparent, she added.

“As is apparent by the numerous opinion pieces that have appeared just these past few weeks on the subject, this is a sensitive issue to all the different cultures that call South Africa home. The government’s current blunt one-size-fits-all approach cannot be the answer to this problem.”

Statue of former Boer general and statesman Louis Botha in front of the gates of South Africa’s Parliament being vandalised. Image Twitter@songezomazizi

There appears to be certain irregularities with the processes thus far, said South Africa’s largest opposition party.

The DA has called for the task team and Minister of Sports, Arts and Culture, Nathi Mthethwa, to appear before the parliamentary portfolio committee on sports, arts and culture to answer questions about the process followed to date and the plans for moving forward.

“The history of South Africa – as tragic and violent as it is – cannot be sanitised. It must be faced and learned from so that those mistakes will never be repeated.”

Van Dyk said the DA’s vision is a South Africa that is inclusive in which South Africans speak “openly about our past” and work toward creating a shared future in which everybody can participate.

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