NINE Khoisan activists were arrested yesterday for smashing up a mosaic bench the City had erected three years ago in the CBD in honour of legendary Khoisan descendant Krotoa van Meerhoff.
The bench was situated in a small square constituting the intersection of Castle Street and St George’s Mall.
A group of Khoisan activists say they destroyed the mosaic bench because they found it disrepectful for people to sit on Krotoa’s face, which had formed part of the mosaic.
The square was named after Van Meerhoff by mayor Patricia de Lille and the Mayco member for transport during an official ceremony in 2012.
They had declared the square a public open space dedicated to Van Meerhoff as part of the City’s renaming process and its broader plans for reconciliation and redress.
A stallholder, who witnessed how the bench was destroyed with a hammer and a crowbar, said it happened at about 11am after the Khoisan group had prayed and chanted.
She said their leader had asked a girl about five days earlier to move from it and not to “sit on top of his mother”.
One of the arrested Khoisan activists, Tanya Kleinhans-Cedras, speaking on behalf of their group while the arrests were being processed at the Cape Town Central police station, said: “It’s so disturbing that we have been put behind bars for a seat that discredited the matriarch of the Khoisan in the Western Cape. She is Krotoa, who is also a cochoqua (tribe member).”
She said their group had first conducted a ceremony of chanting, praying and burning of incense before demolishing the bench.
“We kept the part of her face and the part containing her name so that a more dignified memorial of her can be erected.
“Why charge us like this and treat us like criminals when all we were doing was defending and restoring our aboriginal and sacred heritage,” said Kleinhans-Cedras.
She said they would take Van Meerhof’s face and name to the mayor to raise their concerns about the unfair way Khoisan people and their demands are being treated by the provincial and national government.