Pretoria - Political parties have discussed a proposal to move statues representing South Africa’s colonial and apartheid years to historical theme parks, Arts and Culture Minister Nathi Mthethwa said on Wednesday.
He told a media briefing in Pretoria the proposal for theme parks was mooted at a consultative meeting last Friday to respond to the debate and protests surrounding statues and memorials seen as symbols of racial oppression.
“No one can deny that there is too much of the past in our present. The consultative meeting agreed that we want a present that reflects the future,” Mthethwa said.
Other proposals included urgently establishing a task team to speed up a process of identifying contentious statues and relocating them. The minister said the process would mark a turning point in how the country dealt with issues of remembrance and should be concluded within five years, at most.
“This will ensure the acceleration of the process of identification, consultation and relocation of statues for a period of between a minimum of three years and a maximum of not more than five years.”
Dozens of statues countrywide have been defaced in the past three weeks after the Economic Freedom Fighters called on supporters to topple those representing white minority rule.
The EFF issued the call amid a student campaign calling for the removal of the statue of Cecil John Rhodes from the University of Cape Town campus.
The Rhodes statue was removed from the prominent place it occupied on the campus for eight decades on April 9.
Mthethwa said some of the statues that were defaced represented democracy, not colonial repression, and the outpouring of discontent “threatened to plunge us into a deep political crisis”.
“But this has been worsened by the explosion of anger, violence and murder as some sections of population have waged an unnecessary war against fellow Africans and other immigrants who live among us”.
Returning to the content of last Friday’s meeting, which took place at Freedom Park, the minister said it was also decided that an audit would be performed of all “existing names, symbols and sites to identify those that are considered as offensive”.
He said these should be changed within a specified period, but did not give a timeframe.
Responding to questions, Mthethwa was emphatic that statues of political figures from the post-apartheid era would not be affected.
“There is no way that we will start discussions of taking Madiba (Nelson Mandela) out,” he said.