The bronze statue of Mahatma Gandhi that was unveiled on 02 October 2003 has become the latest target when a group of young men pelted plastic packets filled with white paint at it and defacing the plaque on Sunday afternoon. Picture: Timothy Bernard 12.04.2015

Durban - A group of people wearing ANC caps brazenly defaced a statue of Mahatma Gandhi that stands opposite the party’s Johannesburg offices in Gandhi Square on Sunday.

This was on the day that a bust of the Indian peace figure was unveiled in Hannover, Germany, by Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

The group drove into the square in a dark grey Renault hatchback at about noon and jumped out carrying 1-litre and 5-litre tins of paint, and placards that read: “Racist Gandhi must fall.”

They threw the white paint on the bust and then left, only to return an hour later with more paint in plastic bags, to make it easier to throw.

They also defaced a nearby plaque that contained information about the work Ghandi did in the country, by painting it.

As the group tried to flee, one of them was caught.

“He dropped a set of keys and fell behind the others. We managed to catch him, but he wasn’t worried or afraid,” said Ntandazo Khwephe from Top Ten Security.

Khwephe said the group looked familiar, especially the one they caught.

“I’m used to seeing him around the ANC offices. He said he’s not worried because he’ll just make a call and his leader will get him out of prison. He was relaxed, and said they know what they’re doing. They said we shouldn’t stop them because Gandhi was a racist,” Khwephe said.

ANC spokesman Keith Khoza said on Sunday night that the party condemned the attack and did not believe members of the party would partake in such an act.

“It’s not possible for anyone from the ANC to deface any statues because we have been clear on the matter. We have stated that any people who have problems with statues should engage in direct discussions with the community in the area,” said Khoza, who added that the defacers might be imposters.

“Anyone could wear ANC merchandise. We condemn whoever was arrested and call for police to do their duty,” he said.

Police spokesman Lieutenant Kay Makhubela said the man arrested would be charged with malicious damage to property.

“The 21-year-old will appear in court on Monday ,” he said.

Meanwhile Parliament called for calm and conciliation in the statue debate, urging South Africans to remember the legacy of Nelson Mandela.

“Parliament calls on all South Africans to follow the example set by the country’s leadership under the late president Nelson Mandela, and find political solutions in dealing with sensitive and emotive issues such as the country’s statues,” the legislature said on Sunday.

Parliament added that Mandela championed “nation-building and reconciliation”, and said it would approach the debate in that spirit.

“All of us have a duty to work expeditiously to correct all past injustices and acknowledge the pain of our people.

“We also have a duty to uphold the laws of our country and work towards social cohesion, and avoid counter-productive actions that could polarise our society.”

The Mercury and ANA