Lobby group wants Louis Botha statue at Parliament removed
As the country commemorated the June 16, 1976 youth uprisings, which saw pupils taking to the streets to oppose the enforcement of Afrikaans as a medium of instruction by the apartheid regime, the crisis committee, comprising mostly young people, said the removal of colonial monuments was long overdue.
Among the protesters were the #RhodesMustFall activists behind the removal of the Cecil John Rhodes statue at UCT in 2015, which the Cape Times covered extensively.
The growing global support for the Black Lives Matter movement has seen a number of Confederate and colonial statues removed in the US, UK, Belgium and New Zealand. Some of these monuments have been the subject of years-long efforts for their removal.
Outside Parliament, protester Chulumanco Nkasela, who carried a placard reading “RhodesMustFall”, said the demonstration was a continuation of the call for the removal of statues, memorials and iconography, including place names, that commemorated historical figures who promoted and condoned slavery, racism and imperialism.
“We call upon people to take a stand against the humiliation of black people, and for their fight against colonialism, and begin a genuine process of nation-building,” Nkasela said.
“We can’t be in democracy and still have statues that celebrate oppression. They don’t represent freedom. Removing them is not erasing history; there are many ways people, especially the youth, can learn about apartheid and slavery.
"These monuments are an insult to black people, who still have to deal with the material and psychological repercussions of the settler colonial conquest.
“The historic role of black students and the role of the post-1994 youth, we think it must be stressed that the struggle of young black students is the struggle of black people against colonial relations in society.”
The Sport, Arts and Culture Ministry said that, in acknowledging the Black Lives Matter campaign, they had graded and declared new heritage sites as part of the affirmation of sites that were marginalised in the past, and in some instances had removed statues that evoked the colonial and apartheid past.
This included the removal of the Verwoerd statues at Parliament and the Free State provincial legislature, an imposing bust of CR Swart from the Durban police headquarters, and an imposing bust of Paul Kruger from the entrance of the Kruger National Park.
“The department is the custodian of Outcome 14 Social Cohesion and Nation-Building, and it is our responsibility to ensure that we have a socially cohesive nation that is non-racial, non-sexist, non-creedal as well as nontribal, among other things.
“We subscribe to the view that suggests that statues, monuments, symbols and names that are not aligned to these values should not occupy public spaces. However, such changes must be done through consultation as prescribed by our legislation.”
The ministry called on protesters not to vandalise statues but to follow procedures when they wished to remove statues. In commemorating Youth Day, President Cyril Ramaphosa said the government was doing its part to uplift the country’s youth despite complaints that they were drowning in unemployment, poverty and hopelessness.
“Whether it is through the work of the National Youth Development Agency, the Expanded Public Works Programme or through the Small Enterprise Finance Agency, we are broadening the frontiers of opportunities for our young people every day,” he said.
He admitted South Africa’s deeply unequal socio-economic circumstances had a major influence on how people withstood the shocks posed by Covid-19.
“This pandemic provides us with an opportunity to inject new perspectives into how we can turn our economy around but also how we can reimagine our very society."