The government is considering relocating statues from South Africa’s apartheid and colonial pasts to theme parks, Sports, Arts and Culture Minister Nathi Mthethwa has said.
In a statement in Parliament on Thursday, Mthethwa said a government cluster had recommended that an audit of “offensive” statues, names, symbols and monument be conducted.
He added, “Likewise, it advised the Department to provide guidance on the relocation of statues that are inimical to the Constitution and the founding values of the new democratic order. The cluster advocated for the development of theme parks which would be cultural spaces hosting the relocated statues.
“The cluster further advised that the relocation of these statues and memorials should be conducted in a prescribed and systematic manner.”
Mthethwa explained that relocation – and not demolition – of the statues is provided for in the National Resources Heritage Act. He said the statues shouldn’t be “thrown into the dustbin of history” because “people are going to demand them.”
The theme parks would be established and maintained under the “old adage of ‘lest we forget,'” the Minister said. He added, “This will ensure that posterity will understand the trials and tribulations that our nation has undergone.”
The proposal sparked debate in Parliament, with the Democratic Alliance (DA) and Freedom Front Plus opposing it. DA MP Veronica van Dyk said South Africa does not have a heritage landscape “because we are divided by the government using ‘our people’ to refer to some, no longer striving for the rainbow nation.”
FF Plus MP Tamarin Breedt argued that monuments are part of history and how South Africa came about. “What are apartheid monuments? An onslaught on Afrikaner symbols?” she asked.
Mthethwa further said the government is planning to change names of places, streets and public spaces to make South Africa’s geographic landscape more representative of its people.
He said while apartheid and colonial symbols still dominate South Africa, a public consultation process, however slow, must be completed to avoid legal challenges once the name changes are effected.
Earlier this week, the Eastern Cape provincial government also revealed that it was considering name changes for East London and other towns.
Under this plan, East London would be renamed kuGompo and King Williams Town would be called Qonce. Ntabozuko was proposed as the new name for Berlin, while East London Airport would be known as King Phalo Airport.