EFF renews calls for removal of Paul Kruger statue on Church Square
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Pretoria - Renewed calls by the EFF for the removal of the “Oom Paul" Kruger statue, standing tall in the city centre, has placed the party on a collision course with the DA.
On Heritage Day on Friday, a group of EFF members picketed on Church Square where the statue is located, calling for its removal because, they said, it symbolised a “white racist”.
Kruger was the president of the former South African Republic from 1883 to 1902, and the international face of the then Boer republic’s cause. He died in 1904.
A call by EFF Tshwane regional chairperson Obakeng Ramabodu for the removal of “white racist statues”, as well as for the renaming of some areas in Pretoria, was rejected by DA mayoral candidate Randall Williams.
Williams, who is also the sitting mayor, warned that the EFF’s call could potentially sow hatred between different cultures and races.
“The DA condemns in the strongest terms the EFF’s picket for the removal of the Paul Kruger statue as part of celebrating Heritage Day.
“These actions disregard the importance of our heritage and incite hatred among different cultures and races,” he said.
He said it was unacceptable for the EFF to use Heritage Day to “call for destruction and racial division within our country instead of bringing our people together”.
“Destroying this statue will not heal the nation from the injustices of the past. For the nation to succeed, we must learn from the past and each other’s history,” Williams said.
Speaking during the picket, Ramabodu was adamant the statue should go, saying Kruger was a murderer and that his statue deserved to be thrown away.
“Paul Kruger made sure that he shares land with his family here in Pretoria. Gezina is named after his wife, Irene is named after his daughter. That should not be the case. All this nonsense needs to be removed,” he said. EFF MP Reneiloe Mashabela vowed her party would remove “racist” statues – which served as a reminder of the country’s painful past – should it be voted into power in the November 1 local government election.
“Racist statues serve as a reminder of our past; we are called unreasonable when we call for them to be removed,” she said.
In the past, efforts by the EFF to remove or damage the statue have been prevented by the City of Tshwane, which placed a special fence around it.
Two years ago the EFF tabled a motion in council to demolish the statue and have it replaced with a statue of the late Winnie Madikizela-Mandela.
The ANC rejected the EFF motion, saying it would be “against the party policies on statues and heritage”.
In 2018 the South African Geographic Names Council said the brass statue of Kruger and his burghers would remain in Church Square.
Williams said the DA championed the preservation of all cultures and their heritage in South Africa.
“The DA in Tshwane has worked hard in our campaign, wards, and city to ensure that we have regular clean-up campaigns at all our heritage sites such as Solomon Mahlangu Square, Church Square, Komjekejeke Cultural Village, the Voortrekker Monument, the Synagogue, parks, and cemeteries.”
He said South Africa belonged to all who lived in it.
“Now is the time to come together as we build a caring society with an active citizenry,” he said.
Last November, Arts and Culture Minister Nathi Mthethwa warned against recklessness in taking decisions about historical symbols.
He, however, said the relocation of apartheid and colonial-era statues, as well as the renaming of streets named after apartheid rulers, should be decided by the public in local municipalities and metro councils.
Mthethwa's comment was made after protests in various parts of the country in which different political parties, students and academics demanded the removal of all colonial and apartheid figures.
In Kimberley, a statue of Cecil John Rhodes on horseback had to be restored after it was vandalised.
* Additonal reporting by Nokwanda Ncwane