Calls for Queen Victoria's statue in Port Elizabeth to be relocated

APRIL 1, 2015

The Queen Victoria statue stands tall and overlooks Vuyisile Mini Square in Nelson Mandela Bay. To some, it is seen as a beautiful piece of art, to others it represents the history of our city. To many, it is a painful reminder of a history of colonialism, oppression and suffering.

On March 31st 2015, Andre Goeda, from the Department of Traditional Affairs, along with Hon MPL Chrisitan Martin, who is the chairperson for the portfolio committee of social development, and the Khoi Chief in Nelson Mandela Bay gathered in front of the Queen Victoria statue to perform a spiritual ceremony, in honour of Khoi Hero and revolutionary, Dawid Stuurman.

An official petition for the relocation of the Queen Victoria statue was presented to the Executive Mayoral Committee and a request made for a statue to be relocated to a museum and replaced with that of Chief Dawid Stuurman.

“There is no way in our minds that we want to demolish the statue; we want this statue to be relocated to a museum. We’ve heard the story of the hunter, now we want to hear the story of the hunted and that is the message we are trying to spread here today,” said MPL Martin.

The petition was received by a municipal representative, who confirmed that it will be processed through the structures of Council and in terms of the legislation and regulations governing names and heritage.

The Nelson Mandela Bay Municipality understands that symbols of colonialism, such as the Queen Victoria statue, is always likely to invoke strong emotive calls for removal, given the pain and suffering that was caused by colonialism, imperialism and Apartheid. 

To this end, the Municipality has listened to the call of the Khoisan people and others and will engage with them and other stakeholders in this respect.

Who is Dawid Stuurman?  – Fallen Khoi-San Hero

We live in a nation of rich history and strong cultural heritage which dates back centuries. Much of our history focuses on the struggles of our ancestors who faced the shackles of colonialism, dating back to the early 1700’s.

One such individual, we pay close attention to, is that of Chief Dawid Stuurman, who is considered a hero and revolutionary who dedicated his life and time to the fight against the oppression of the Khoi-San people under a colonialist government.

Stuurman was born in 1773, near the Gamtoos River in the Eastern Cape. He suffered brutal treatment from the farmer he worked for. He was tied to wagon wheels and whipped with sjamboks and left for hours in the blistering sun, because he stood up for his beliefs and disagreed with his oppressors. Later, he abandoned his duties at the farm and began to dedicate his time toward the fight for freedom.

In his fight for humanity, without fair trial, Stuurman was imprisoned on Robben Island for “crimes” committed against the colonial government.  He escaped in December, 1809. In 1819, he was captured again and sent back to Robben Island and endured hard labour, but managed to escape a second time. 

After his third detainment at Robben Island, it was decided that he would be exiled to New South Wales, Australia. After six years in compulsory government employ (slavery), he was given permission to work for wages. His wife drew up a petition to Queen Victoria for his release, but to no avail.

On 22 February 1830, Dawid Stuurman died in the General Hospital in Sydney.

Though this may date back far beyond our time, we need to remember our history and embrace our cultural heritage. Many revolutionaries like Dawid Stuurman carved the path toward making our country the democratic nation it is today.

The Khoi-San community of Nelson Mandela Bay have called for the repatriation of the remains of Dawid Stuurman (from Sydney to Mandela Bay).