I have been following recent events in South Africa with amazement. The current mania for statue bashing seems to be the latest way to show your discontent, stupidity, ignorance, barbarism, disgust, disgrace and all of the above. It all seemed to have started when somebody flung a turd or 10 at the statue of Cecil John Rhodes
at UCT. Now Rhodes is not one of the more popular characters in our history, in fact he probably comes across as one of the most disliked people amongst all race groups. It is a reputation that is well deserved because frankly he was not a very likeable person at all, he really epitomises everything bad that you can think of in an Imperialist . However, he did leave behind a legacy, and leaving a legacy is probably one way of trying to make amends for what you did wrong, although I suspect he may have had some sort of ulterior motive.
Now flinging manure is all fine and well, but it is never a good idea to fling manure at the same institution where you are a student, because somebody may take notice and rap you over the head with a bucket and a brush and point you in the direction of your dirty work with an order to clean it up! That does not seem to have happened. What has seemed to have happened is the usual frothing at the mouth and shouts of “racist” or “colonialist” depending on where you happen to be in the odd mess that is South Africa.
My biggest fear is that a whole wodge of pooh flinging and vandalism will be the end result, and somebody is going to get hurt.
It has happened as I expected. So far Paul Kruger and his sentries have gotten vandalised,
Queen Victoria in Port Elizabeth got vandalised,
The Anglo Boer War Memorial in Uitenhage was set fire to,
The real sad part is that the Horse Memorial in PE really commemorates the role of horses in the ABW, and not the people who fought and died in it. That memorial has been around now over 100 years and has nothing to do with race, colour, language, religion or political affiliation!
It seems as if somebody has been arrested for the Horse Memorial vandalism, and I hope that the book, and the whole library gets flung at them, along with a very stiff jail term. Unfortunately, what will probably happen is that the group that this individual belongs to will go on the rampage and foam at the mouth, shout slogans, wave berets and probably vandalise something else, because that is what they always do!
The vandalism of statues is bad, because tomorrow it may be books, or it may be schools, or hospitals or people. Once something like this starts it does not stop, and the only people laughing are those who will score the pieces of bronze that they will sell to the unscrupulous scrap metal dealer for R5.
I always hope that sanity prevails, because sanity is really needed now. I hear the magical word “dialogue” being brandished, and I am afraid that will not take us very far because there are just too many people with agenda and too many political brownie points to be gained. We need the authorities to make a stand, and some sort of compromise to be reached. If that means we create a museum where statues and memorials can be sent to; then so be it. Make it so!
The one thing that they seem to do in the UK is embrace statues and memorials irrespective of good or bad, because they do seem to realise that history is how you interpret it, and it is the past, you either embrace it or you forget it. However, sooner or later it will come back and bite you on the rear end!
From what I can see the government is silent on the matter, which is to be expected considering how they often end up putting their foot in it. The usual groups of radicals are having hissy fits, and people like me are looking at this and asking: “at what point will it all stop”?
I would like to urge caution though, tit-for-tat statue bashing will achieve nothing. If anything it will just raise the stakes, and at some point somebody will end up getting killed as so often happens in South Africa, and then we are just that one step closer to anarchy.
The best thing I can say at this point is: Start taking photographs and keep them to show to the citizens of tomorrow, so that they can see where we all came from, warts and all.
Rhodes has been removed, The soldier watering his horse has been removed, and the usual self serving mob have chained themselves to Paul Kruger. However, the latest Casualty has been Louis Botha in Cape Town, and this morning I awoke to hear that Ghandi in Johannesburg had been painted.
I believe that somebody has been arrested in connection with this, although who knows what the outcome will be. As I said before, this is going to escalate, and I suspect that the Ghandi vandalism is a tit-for-tat thing, although given the lack of intelligence of some of those who are hell bent on destroying everything that offends their sensibilities it is possible that they did not know what Ghandi actually represented. All they saw was a statue.
Paul Kruger and JG Strydom in Krugersdorp no longer seem as assured of their spot any longer. Although I have always thought that these two statues were long out of their original context.
Karl Von Brandis in Johannesburg was painted yellow over the weekend of 18/19 April.
And I believe the ABW memorial in East London also got painted at some point.
It was confirmed that a statue of Louis Botha had been vandalised too, although contrary to what I had read it was not the one at the Union Buildings.
Watch this space as they say…..
List of statues vandalised so far that I know about:
- King George V Statue UKZN campus – 26 March 2015 (painted white)
- Queen Victoria Statue Port Elizabeth – 31 March 2015 (protest) & 9 April 2015 (vandalised)
- Horse Memorial Uitenhage – 2 April 2015 (set alight)
- Paul Kruger Statue Pretoria – 5 April 2015 (painted green)
- Louis Botha Statue Cape Town – 9 April 2015 (painted red)
- General Jan Fick Ficksburg – 11 April 2015 (painted dark red)
- Martinus Wessel Pretorius Pretoria – 11 April 2015 (painted dark red)
- Gandhi Statue Johannesburg – 12 April 2015 (painted white)
- Andrew Murray statue Wellington – 12 April 2015 (painted red)
- Paul Kruger and JG Strijdom Statues Krugersdorp – 15 April 2015 (painted red)
- Karl Von Brandis: Johannesbug 18 or 19 April 2015 (painted yellow)
- ABW Memorial East London
- Louis Botha statue, Cape Town?. (paint and vegetables)
(List obtained from http://www.heritageportal.co.za/forum/there-statue-revolution-afoot (Link no longer valid))
© DRW 2015-2018. Created 06/04/2015. Updated 20/04/2015, images migrated 29/04/2016. Images of Uitenhage and PE courtesy of Ronnie Lovemore