Cape Town - The countrywide defacing of commemorative monuments took a turn for the worse on Saturday, with the sporadic defacing of statues reported across the country.
The statue of the founder of Pretoria, Marthinus Wessel Pretorius, was also vandalised as the National Heritage Council revealed that it was pushing to fast-track proposals to relocate such statues. This followed an incident early on Saturday morning when a statue of a reverend outside a Wellington church was covered with red paint.
African News Agency reported that Tshwane EFF local chairman Benjamin Disolane has given the City of Tshwane an ultimatum of seven days to remove the statue of Paul Kruger at Church Square in Pretoria, as EFF members burned the old South African flag.
The fate of the statues appears to be in the hands of the National Heritage Council, whose chief executive officer, Sonwabile Mancotywa, on Saturday revealed that the council was pushing to fast-track the proposals around the increasingly heated matter: “We will conduct an audit on all apartheid and colonial statues all over the country. The questions is, what do we do about them? Do we place them in less prominent positions or create a special garden of statues?” he said.
The council’s urgent action comes as yet another statue was defaced in the Free State town of Ficksburg. According to eNCA, local police have condemned the vandalisation of General Jan Fick.
Fick was a commander-general of the area formerly known as the Orange Free State. His statue stands in front of the Ficksburg town hall.
Apart from the vandalisation of Fick’s statue, red paint was splashed on to a figure of a reverend outside a church in Wellington.
It is one of at least six statues that have been vandalised around the country since the beginning of the month.
Others include the following:
* On Friday morning the statue of Queen Victoria in Port Elizabeth was covered in green paint.
* The statue of Louis Botha outside Parliament was defaced on Thursday. Two EFF members were arrested.
* The Paul Kruger statue in Pretoria was defaced with green paint on Monday.
* The war horse memorial statue was vandalised and dismantled in Port Elizabeth on Monday.
* On April 2 three EFF members placed a tyre around a war memorial statue in Uitenhage’s Market Square and set it alight.
This after EFF leader Julius Malema last month urged South Africans to tear down symbols which remind them of apartheid, following the student protest over the statue of Cecil John Rhodes. The statue in question was removed on Friday.
On Saturday the EFF said officials dealing with the statues and public spaces needed to speed up the process because public discontent around the issue was growing.
Mancotywa said because statues were repeatedly being targeted, law enforcement agencies around the country had been advised to step up their focus around them.
He said while this was happening, the council was urgently reviewing policies around statues.
At the end of this month it would release two draft policy proposals for public comment.
Mancotywa said a proper place for the statues needed to be considered, a place that did not hide South Africa's history, nor celebrate negative aspects of the past.
When it came to moving the statues, he said it seemed that this was what the public wanted.
“I think there’s general consensus (and the question is), where do we relocate them to?”
Mancotywa said that calls to put the statues in a museum, such as those that the EFF has previously made, were short-sighted.
He said that there is a generally-held perception that only discarded, unwanted items were sent to museums, and this was definitely not the case.
The second aspect the policy proposals would look at was public spaces.
“How do we reconstruct our public spaces so that there's a true reflection of our common ethnicity?
“White people are not going to celebrate a public space that doesn't respect their heritage,” Mancotywa said, adding that the same would go for other race groups.
After public comment had been received, the policies would be given to the relevant minister to consider and draft legislation would later be written up and could be passed into law.
Mancotywa said that any statue older than 60 years became heritage property and that it was illegal to tamper with such monuments.
Early on Saturday, the statue of Andrew Murray, on the premises of the Dutch Reformed Church in Wellington, was defaced with red paint being thrown at it.
Murray was a reverend who trained missionaries in the town.
A photograph circulating on social media showed a man, standing on a base of the statue, smearing red paint on it.
Drakenstein Municipality mayor Gesie van Deventer said the statue was religious, and not political in nature, and was situated on private property.
“This symbol represents reconciliation, peace and love for your fellow South Africans – and is now being attacked by people's ignorance…
“This type of intolerance creates a threat to the delicate peace in our country,” she said.
Van Deventer said security would be increased around the roughly five statues on municipal land in the area.
“We're stepping up law enforcement and patrolling the statues that we have,” she said.
Van Deventer advised those dealing with statues on private property to be cautious.
Police spokesman Colonel Tembinkosi Kinana said officers were investigating a case of malicious damage to property in connection with the Wellington statue.
No arrests have, as yet, been made in this regard.
On Saturday Nazier Paulsen, a member of the EFF's central command team, said it was not clear who exactly had vandalised the statue.
He said the EFF had “inspired a nation to express how they feel about statues that insult Africans”, and that any supporter of their stance could be behind the vandalism.
When it came to the National Heritage Council's proposals, Paulsen warned that officials should not drag their feet.
“Whoever's busy with the statues and reorganising of public spaces must hurry up.
“There's growing discontent and this is all a symptom of that,” he said.