Mandela delivered his first speech after being released at the Grand Parade in Cape Town on the 11th of February 1990. On Monday exactly 29 years later, the City of Cape Town gave permission to a film production company to remove the statue temperately to shoot their film. Picture: Armand Hough/African News Agency(ANA)
Why do we put up statues? Is it not to honour great men and women with immoveable monuments that will stand the test of time, weathering the storms of life for centuries, standing as a testament to the greatness of the people in whose likeness they are cast?

To deserve a statue you must have had an incredibly significant impact on history, making your mark on the fabric of the city, province and country, and its leaders, who would then see it fit to honour you thus.

Take, for example, our first democratically-elected president, Nelson Mandela. The father of our nation. His name is synonymous around the world with the “new” South Africa. There are statues of Madiba all around the country. And it’s only fair. I’d venture, that you could not have enough statues of Madiba.

Yet, there were questions from some quarters about a life-size statue of Mandela being erected at our Cape Town City Hall, overlooking the Grand Parade, where he delivered his first public speech since his incarceration to a mass of people 29 years ago to the day, on Monday. Some asked: Do we really need another statue of Madiba?

Thankfully, that sentiment was ignored and Madiba was immortalised in visual art form, in living colour, on one of the balconies of the city hall, to stand unmoved for all time.

Except, it hasn’t remained unmoved.

Madiba was removed on the anniversary of a famous address to 250000 people on the day of his release from Victor Verster Prison (now the Drakenstein Correctional Centre), on February 11, 1990.

Mandela was removed ostensibly at the behest of a film crew. It’s a statue, not a mannequin. Removing the statue to clear the way for a film shoot is akin to wiping the memory of that momentous occasion from history.

This is unprecedented. I’ve certainly never heard of statues being moved to make way for film shoots before. That statue is part of Cape Town’s identity, and removing it, even temporarily, is a slap in the face of the memory of that historic event.

* Lance Witten is the live editor for the Cape Argus.

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