By Nkosingiphile Dladla
DURBAN – In the past, statues situated within local campuses have been toppled, damaged or splattered with paint from the statue of King George V at the University of KwaZulu Natal’s Howard campus to that of Cecil John Rhodes at the University of Cape Town.
The University of Free State’s Bloemfontein Campus transformation plan has led to another statue controversy. As that of CR Swart, this time it’s the statue of Marthinus Theunis Steyn – the last president of Orange Free State. The statue discussions date back to as far as 2003.
The Economic Freedom Fighters Student Command (EFFSC) led SRC of this campus finds this statue irrelevant. “Steyn is not going to be there for longer; he is going to be removed and not relocated because relocating him would be the distortion of history again. That is what we as the SRC say,” said the EFFSC SRC President, Sonwbile Dwaba.
“His statue must be removed because we as the students and the student body don’t feel represented by that person and the values of which are embodied in him are not (the) values that we value,” Dwaba added.
“He was the architect of the National Party who gave birth to the apartheid system and that is the part of history we as South Africans don’t need to be proud of, so people should stop saying we are removing history because we are not and history is still there,” the President continued.
Without any solution from as back as 2003, the Council is sitting again on Friday, 23rd November 2018, to decide the future of the Steyn statue in Bloem’ campus.
According to Asive Dlanjwa, member of SASCO and 2017/18 president of the SRC, the Councils meeting’s outcome would be the removal of such a statue from campus. “This statue is not the property of the institution nor of private ownership; it is preserved under the heritage act as the provincial monument,” Dlanjwa said.
“We submitted compelling arguments as to why should the statue be removed, so anything besides the removal of the statue would be a direct attack on the existence of the majority black students at this institution who have been for a long time reminded of their oppression through the presence of this statue,” Dlanjwa explained.
According to the article by the Vice Chancellor, Prof. Francis Petersen, published in the Mail & Guardian, the ministerial task team’s recent report on the transformation of the heritage landscape says that “statues are not innocent pieces of architecture” as they embody a strong “symbolic power” and project “the foundational values of the state and those in power”. TOJ
Precisely, it is never about an individual but also about the values he represents.
Reporting by Nkosingiphile Dladla in Durban; Editing by Gaby Ndongo in Johannesburg
Feature image: The statue of Marthinus Theunis Steyn in front of the main building on the Bloemfontein campus of the University of Free State.
Photo obtained from UFS official Twitter account.