Proposal that theme parks house colonial statues

APRIL 22, 2015

Arts and Culture Minister Nathi Mthethwa says a consultative meeting on heritage transformation has resolved that theme parks should be built to accommodate colonial statues and other heritage symbols.

Briefing the media following the meeting that took place at Freedom Park in Pretoria, the Minister said it was also decided that an urgent task team be established to oversee the identification of the symbols.

“[There is a need for the] construction of historical theme parks to give a … narrative of the evolution of South African society.

“Strong emphasis should be placed on foregrounding African civilisation, history and influential figures.

“It was resolved that we establish memorial historical theme parks for statues arranged and curated for a narrative, historical, education and themed interpretation,” he said on Wednesday.

The Minister’s announcement follows a spate of incidents around the country where several statues, most of them commemorating colonial leaders, were defaced by members of the public.

The conversation was ignited after some University of Cape Town (UCT) students threw human waste at the statue of colonial leader Cecil John Rhodes ahead of petitioning the institution’s authorities for the statue to be removed.

After several statues were defaced in various parts of the country, the Minister condemned the unlawful behaviour and sent a stern warning that those found to be behind the acts would face prosecution.

The Minister said the consultative meeting, which was held last Friday, emphasised various strategic pillars to resolve the conflict over colonial symbols to transform the country’s heritage landscape.

He said the establishment of a task team would “ensure the acceleration of the process of identification, consultation and relocation of statues for a period of between a minimum of three years and a maximum of not more than five years”.

A monitoring and evaluation unit would also be established to “exercise an oversight role to ensure that objectives are met, and requisite processes are followed and complied with.

“We will launch a vigorous public education and awareness campaign. For instance, retained or changed names should be accompanied by public education campaigns about chosen names or symbols,” the Minister said.

He said a forum for public dialogue would be established to consult with legal structures.

An audit of existing names, symbols and sites would be conducted to identify those that are considered as offensive, and these should be changed within a specified period, he said.

“In the instance where, after an audit and consultation, there may be a need for disposal of some of the symbols and statues, these should also be guided by a disposal policy instead of uncoordinated and unguided discretionary disposals.

“There is need for a comprehensive audit of all symbols, names and statues across society in order to have an inventory that gives a sense of what exists and where these are and the categories of these in order to inform a process of speedy and yet well-informed transformation process,” he said.

He said, meanwhile, that the proposed theme parks would be established at local, provincial and national level.

“They should be declared as heritage sites for future management and protection,” he said. –