Oom Paul stands firm as Church Square upgraded
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Pretoria – Oom Paul will stay put in his pride of place on Church Square even as the historic precinct is being transformed into a Mecca of open-air entertainment.
But there will also be the addition of the Lalela Freedom of Expression Monument. Mayor Solly Msimanga announced plans for this during his budget speech for the new financial year last week.
The statue will remain in place as the inner city rejuvenation project changes the face of Church Square around it.
The proposed monument and the other aspects of the precinct are aimed at rehabilitating city infrastructure, tightening up safety and attract investors.
The project would be installed with a view to bring about vibrancy in public activities in the inner city.
Msimanga said: “It is our belief that the project will gain public, visitor and investor interest in the Church Square precinct.”
The monument will feature rock excavated from a limestone quarry on Robben Island, where forced labour was used.
The Lalela project was first hatched under the previous ANC administration four years ago, but it never came to fruition.
The ANC emphasised its significance as introducing African cultural ownership of the square, and to acknowledge Struggle stalwarts.
Late state president Nelson Mandela’s legacy was meant to be part of the exhibition on the square.
Msimanga said the DA-led administration was committed to creating an inclusive society and sharing the resources of the city.
“The former administration loved to talk big about creating an inclusive society in which all South Africans from different walks of life may share, yet they sat on this project for almost four years after it was passed by the previous mayoral committee,” Msimanga said.
The mayor said such a society had to be able to share in a collective heritage, both painful and reverent, to ensure “that we again move forward with the common vision of tolerance and inclusion”.
The estimated cost of the project, as calculated by the ANC municipality was at least R12million, but there was no figure as yet mentioned by the new administration.
Upon completion, Lalela will give artists a platform to perform free of charge throughout the day.
Msimanga said there were plans for an open-air theatre, where artists’ performances could be broadcast worldwide through the internet or on television.
The original design included a rock excavated from the lime-quarry on Robben Island.
The rock is on display in the portal of the Ou Raadsaal building, symbolising the price paid for the country’s freedom.
Msimanga said the project would preserve the memory and life’s work of the Struggle stalwart’s legacies on Church Square and the Palace of Justice.
Lalela would entail a spiral shape and the material to be used would include local granites, symbolising the foundation of the country’s democracy.
Msimanga said the new administration was committed to human rights, and recognised that Church Square needed a new layer of heritage giving ownership of the space to all citizens of the capital city.
It also envisaged that Lalela would create an internationally recognised monument for freedom of expression, because human rights couldn't be taken for granted, Msimanga said.
“It will be a place to enjoy the colourful side of freedom of expression, to open South African public discourse in refreshing ways."
"It will be the first structure of its kind institutionalising freedom-of-expression in this format,” he said.
The square would be a source of daily entertainment for tourists and locals alike, revitalising the inner-city economy, Msimanga added.