Durban - Days after the ANC in KwaZulu-Natal outlined a plan to erect statues of freedom fighters in the province and move those depicting colonial and apartheid figures to museums, the governing party received backing for a proposal to erect a statue of King Goodwill Zwelithini at the KZN Legislature.
During a sitting of the KZN Legislature yesterday, members of the provincial legislature (MPLs) gave overall approval for the erection of the late king’s statue in front of the provincial parliament in Pietermaritzburg and supported the move for the statue of Britain’s Queen Victoria, which currently stands in the precinct, to be placed in a museum.
The MPLs agreed that the late king had been a unifying figure in the province and deserved to be honoured. The debate was attended by reigning monarch King Misuzulu with his wife, Queen Ntokozo Mayisela, and other members of the royal family.
In opening the debate, ANC KZN chairperson and Economic Development and Tourism MEC Siboniso Duma said it was the government’s commitment to ensure that the late king was not forgotten as he had played a significant role in nation-building.
“In every generation there is a moment to reflect, where the good and the bad as well, as the challenges, are laid bare.
“When we reflect on the history of the Zulu nation and the province there are moments that stand out. Today we are ensuring that the late king’s contribution is recorded in the archives,” said Duma, adding that they wanted a statue that would stand tall, in line with the towering figure that the late king was.
He said that Queen Victoria’s statue, which currently stands at the legislature, should be placed in a museum.
ANC deputy chief whip Vuyiswa Caluza said it was important to honour the late king, because of the role he played especially in the fight against HIV/Aids.
“His majesty encouraged young men to get circumcised, while reviving the Reed Dance, the essence of which is the importance of abstinence from sexual activity.”
EFF MPL Nkululeko Ngubane said the erection of the statue would symbolise victory against oppression and imperialism.
He commended the government for preserving the legacy of the province’s forefathers, instead of honouring its own prominent leaders.
He warned, though, that his party would closely watch the entire process especially regarding spending on the project.
“We would also like to forewarn the ANC not to use the erection of this statue as another ‘cash heist’ for stealing money from taxpayers. We call for transparency and everything must be in black and white in terms of budget allocation, the awarding of tenders and time frames for the project,” Ngubane said.
DA leader Francois Rodgers said certain conditions had to be set as the ANC had developed a bad record when it came to statues, citing the elephant sculptures at the entry point of eThekwini and King Shaka’s statue, which had to be redone.
He acknowledged how the king made everyone feel welcomed in his presence.
IFP MPL Blessed Gwala said they welcomed the erection of the late king’s statue as traditional leadership was an institution that they highly respected. However, he questioned the wisdom of placing it in Pietermaritzburg, saying it should be erected at the old legislature building in Ulundi.
Making brief remarks after the sitting, King Misuzulu expressed happiness at the move to have his father honoured, and pledged to walk in his footsteps by loving his subjects without taking any sides.
“I want to reassure you of my love for all of you, and as you all know I take no sides,” said the king.
University of KwaZulu-Natal Emeritus Professor of History, Professor Donal McCracken, said it was expected that the king would be honoured with a statue, but cautioned against destruction of images from previous eras.
“One should never destroy anything historical, you can move it to a museum,” he said.
McCracken added that while he understood the symbolism in placing the statue in Pietermaritzburg, which is the official seat of government, if it was located in Durban it would be seen by more people because of the economic activity in one of the country’s busiest cities.
This week ANC KZN secretary Bheki Mtolo said King Zwelithini’s statue, along with those of other leaders such as Isaiah Shembe, the founder of the Nazareth Baptist Church and the SACP’s secretary Joe Slovo, would be erected in key nodes of KZN to honour the roles they played in the liberation Struggle.