Pretoria's name and Oom Paul's statue to stay in place
Politics / 24 February 2018, 08:51am / James Mahlokwane
Pretoria is to keep its name and its famous statue of “Oom” Paul Kruger on Church Square.
But, over time the name Tshwane is expected to gain ground, and Kruger will be joined on the square by other controversial figures such as Kgosi Mampuru II, after whom the prison nearby is named.
The chairperson of the South African Geographic Names Council, Johnny Mohlala, told the Pretoria News yesterday that the brass statue of Kruger and his burghers would stay as part of the redevelopment of Church Square.
He was speaking at an event at Freedom Park at which Minister of Arts and Culture Nathi Mthethwa gave feedback on the ministerial task team’s investigation into transformation of the country’s heritage landscape.
The report-back is a result of a national consultative meeting that was convened by the minister in 2015 following attacks on statues that were sparked by “#RhodesMustFall” protests ignited by University of Cape Town students.
The meeting resulted in 21 resolutions which were studied by a task team and then discussed with targeted stakeholders.
Later the minister will be taking the report to cabinet to “find common ground on how the transformation of the heritage landscape should be treated”.
At around that time the Kruger statue was fenced off when it came under threat , but the idea is to take down the fence in due course.
The area is being redesigned with paving, seating and trees, and space for other statues and art works.
Mthethwa said monuments were not “innocent” pieces of work, but embodied strong symbolic power that honoured the past.
“A nation that does not know and honour its past is like a tree without roots,” he said.
But, he said the building of a non-racial non-sexist democratic and prosperous society hinged, among other things, on eradicating all vestiges of colonialism and apartheid racism.
The Department of Arts and Culture assigned the South African Heritage Resource Agency to lead an audit of statues and symbols that did not represent a "progressive and inclusive" society.
Mohlala said the City had, after dialogues and consultations, decided not to remove the Kruger statue, but to add other statues of freedom fighters in that space to create fruitful discourse for those visiting the historic spot.
King Kgosi Mampuru II was executed by the Transvaal Republic government in November 1883 after he refused to recognise the government and pay taxes.
But he was a controversial figure, because a year earlier, in 1882, Mampuru II had murdered Kgoi Sekhukhune I, his brother and rival to the Bapedi Marota crown.
Mohlala confirmed that the capital city's name was not changing as no new application to this effect had been made. The majority of stakeholders voted against a previous application. He said Pretoria was the capital of the country and that made changing its name a complex process that needed both the consultation of the City and the country.
However, he explained, the name Tshwane had become popular and some businesses and residents used it instead of Pretoria. With time, it was inevitable that Tshwane would replace Pretoria.
Mohlala also said Pretoria would be a city with both old and new street names. After some legal battles the decision was made to retain Paul Kruger and Pretorius streets in the interests of reconciliation. However other names synonymous with the city’s apartheid past had been removed.
Voortrekker Marthinus Pretorius founded the city in 1855 and named it after his father Andries Pretorius. Kruger was the former president of the South African (Boer) Republic in the late 1800s.
The head of communications at the Department of Arts and Culture, Zimasa Velaphi, said streets and schools still named after apartheid figures could be changed if those involved made an application to the local government.
“The municipality would then make proper consultations before sending the application to provincial government. From there it would be assessed and sent to the national department to be assessed by a council that deals with such matters.
“Only when it had followed all processes would it reach the minister for him to present it to cabinet for voting,”
Mthethwa said the ministerial task team was made up of individuals from across the country’s diverse demographic groups.
He welcomed the task team recommendation that statues and symbols of heritage must be audited - and where statues were removed from one area, they should be preserved in parks and museums.
“Monuments are not innocent pieces of architectural work. They embody a strong symbolical power.
“Removal of statues is not the end-goal. It is part of an on-going project towards transforming our society“ he said.