Parties divided on installation of City Hall statues

The City Hall building in Durban.

File Picture: Durban City Hall. Picture: African News Agency(ANA) Archives.

Published Oct 12, 2022

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Durban- Political parties in eThekwini Municipality are still divided on the proposal to install the statues of Struggle stalwarts Nelson Mandela and Oliver Tambo in the Durban City Hall precinct.

While the ANC and Minority Front believe it would make sense for the project to go ahead to avoid reckless expenditure should the statues have to go into storage, other parties have questioned the need for additional funding to install them.

The party leaders met on Friday under the whips committee to discuss the issue. The major point of contention has been the additional R1 million required to install the statues. The city has already paid about R11m each for the 9m bronze statues.

The matter was first raised during the executive committee meeting in August, but it was deferred to another meeting earlier this month and was again deferred to an unspecified date

It had to be deferred after some parties raised concerns on the plan to spend the money and others objected to the fact that everything was being named after ANC stalwarts. They argued that if the ANC were to lose power, the statues would be removed with the party.

ANC councillor and whip of council, Thembo Ntuli, said there was support for the project to go ahead, but there had been no official agreement reached as the party leaders needed to consult with their caucuses.

Ntuli said they had little option but to install the statues, saying their construction was a decision taken years ago and failure to install them could result in a finding of wasteful expenditure.

“The decision on this matter was taken long ago, our only issue now is to implement the decision that was taken. We engaged with the parties as we had been directed to engage after the matter was (first raised) and we agreed that we will go back to our parties and brief them, but I also detected in conversations with the other party members of the committee that there were still some other matters that needed to be fine-tuned and clarified and that is what we will do,” said Ntuli.

Minority Front councillor Sunitha Maharaj said her party was in support of the statues being installed.

“It made sense to support their immediate installation instead of incurring storage costs which could very well escalate. However, the matter is yet to be approved by a full council sitting.”

But other parties were in opposition.

“I will not be supporting this matter,” said African Democratic Change leader Visvin Reddy, who was not part of the meeting but was briefed on it.

“Right now the city is borrowing R1.5 billion to fix the infrastructure damaged by the storm, so where is the million rand to install these statues going to come from, we are not saying it’s not important, but we need every cent for services,” said Reddy.

Khanyisani Khambule, chief whip of the EFF, said they had questioned what the additional money was for. He said the decision to build the statues was taken a long time ago and should have been implemented under the leadership of the previous councils.

“We asked for clarity for the R1m additional funding, because it is not normal that such funding be requested after the fact, as everything should have been costed in the initial price.

“This should have been included in the first price, because we believe, that the people who will have to install these statues are the people who built them and understand how they will be installed,” he said.

THE MERCURY

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