DURBAN 20-03-2012 Elephens. Picture: S'bonelo Ngcobo

Artist Andries Botha, who has been embroiled in a long legal battle with the eThekwini Municipality over his Three Elephants sculpture, has lashed out at city manager Sbu Sithole, saying he has failed to give proper reasons for work on the commission being halted.

In an affidavit filed recently, Botha said Sithole had made an affidavit despite having no personal knowledge of the case.

“(Sithole) relies on… documents and advice from people, but… fails to identify such documents or persons. Most conspicuous is the failure to procure an affidavit from the then-city manager, Michael Sutcliffe.”

Botha said the city had failed to take steps to protect the sculpture, despite having undertaken in court to do so.

In papers, he said he had been commissioned to create the sculpture. It was to cost R1.6 million. An order to stop work came in early 2010.

Botha says this was after the then-ANC chairman for the eThekwini region John Mchunu complained that the elephants were an IFP symbol.

The council resolved to remove two of the elephants and to turn the project into a “Big Five urban design concept”, but Botha rejected the idea, saying it would be a “distortion and mutilation” of his work. He applied to the court for a review of the municipality’s decision to stop the project.

In replying papers, Sithole said Botha had not had a contract with the city. He dismissed as “unsubstantiated hearsay” the political reasons put forward by Botha for work on the sculpture being stopped. It had been decided to change the sculpture to the Big Five as this was more “appropriate”.

Botha said Sithole had sidestepped providing logical reasons for the construction being stopped. “What is noteworthy from Sithole’s affidavit is not what it says, but what it does not say. There are scattered attempts to justify the decision, but the court is largely left in the dark.”

Sithole’s affidavit provided mere “speculation” about why it had been decided to change the subject of the sculpture.

“I am not a Big Five sculptor and would never have accepted a commission (for) the Big Five. This was known to the municipality… All the foregoing demonstrates a clumsy attempt to explain a decision where no rational explanation exists.”

Botha said it was irrelevant that he did not have a direct contract. “The first respondent caused the work… to be stopped (and) sought to modify the artwork and this caused the injury to the rights of the applicants.” - The Mercury