Picture: Supplied

Johannesburg - The University of Free State (UFS) will hold public hearings on whether to remove or keep the Marthinus Theunis Steyn statue following calls by 'FeesMustFall' students to remove it from the main campus.

Steyn was the president of the then independent Orange Free State between 1896 and 1902. University spokeswoman Lacea Loader said submissions and oral public participation will start next week at its three campuses.

"The process specifically addresses the removal, relocation, reinterpretation, and retaining of the statue and is part of the Heritage Impact Assessment (HIA) required by the Free State Provincial Heritage Resources Authority (FSPHRA)," said Loader.

"The review process includes opportunities for members of the university community and the public to make oral submissions regarding the position of the statue."

In 2016, protesting students demanded that the university be "de-colonised" as well as the removal of figures of apartheid-era leaders. 

The institution placed security guards to protect the statue after it was vandalised with spray paint by the students. Another statue, that of Charles Robberts (CR) Swart in the same campus was not spared as students dismantled it by pulling it down. Swart was president of the Republic of South Africa between 1961 and 1967.

Several buildings and streets in Bloemfontein are named after Steyn and Swart. In 2015, the Free State government renamed its provincial head office, the CR Swart Building to Fidel Castro, to honour the late Cuban leader.

African News Agency (ANA)