Nelson Mandela's bust at Mitchell Park. Picture: Sibonelo Ngcobo/African News Agency(ANA)
Durban - A project to commemorate South Africa’s history and heritage through the installation of commemorative plaques in Durban’s Mitchell Park has resulted in dismay rather than admiration after it was found to be riddled with errors.

The plaques and bronze busts of Zulu King Goodwill Zwelithini and Nelson Mandela formed part of a project of the Sivananda World Peace Foundation, whose founder Ishwar Ramlutchman enjoyed a close relationship with the king.

However, Zwelithini, who was the guest of honour during the unveiling ceremony in November, was not spared as even his name was misspelt. Zwelithini, whose glorifying or cultural name is Isilo, was referred to as Isolo.

This week, the South African Writers’ Circle (SAWC), whose members spotted the errors during a visit to the park, expressed dismay at the commemoration effort gone wrong.

Chairperson Patrick Coyne said the errors could have been avoided with more care in the design and editing of the language.

“The monument is written in English, which is sensible considering that many of Durban’s people understand that language and use it. So it was with a feeling of dismay that several of us in the South African Writers’ Circle discovered that the English used in the monument was spoilt by numerous errors - what could be called proofreading errors,” said Coyne.

Coyne said the spelling errors could render the message the plaques tried to convey meaningless.

“It’s a very important history reflected there, but we cannot ignore the errors. There was a lack of proofreading, probably from the people who engraved the words. Sadly, with a monument, when it’s done, it’s done. You can’t alter it.

“The script used, incidentally, was all in block capitals, closely printed, which made it hard to read,” he said.

At the time of the unveiling, Ramlutchman, who is also known as “Prince Mabheka” and who the king has previously referred to as his “son”, said the monuments would serve as a symbol of reconciliation and tolerance and would highlight the heritage of the pioneers they honoured.

The head of eThekwini Municipality’s Parks, Recreation and Culture Unit, Thembinkosi Ngcobo, admitted that he had seen the errors during the unveiling but said the department was not responsible.

“The municipality does not own the project, but it was a partner because we provided the park as the venue. The spelling errors were noted and Sivananda was responsible for correcting any mistakes,” said Ngcobo.

When questioned about the errors, Ramlutchman was not fazed.

“It was just a printing mistake. What is the problem because it will be sorted out this week? It could not be corrected in December because of the holidays,” he said.

Sunday Tribune