Minister Nathi Mthethwa on Heritage and Memorial Sites
We have noted the protest that has been raging around the matter of the Cecil John Rhodes statue at the University of Cape Town.
However, I am in a position to confirm that we have not yet received any formal application for the removal of any statue in any part of the country.
South Africa is a relatively young democracy renowned for engaging in national discourse. As government, we encourage citizen participation in efforts to find an amicable resolution to this matter through dialogue and negotiation.
It is for this reason that we have embarked on conducting community conversations and appointed Social Cohesion Advocates among other programmes, to encourage active citizenry and public participation in find solutions to problems that face us as a country.
In fact, we will host the National Social Cohesion Report Back Summit to gauge how far we have come on the road to finding resolutions to stumbling blocks towards reconciliation and national unity.
This will take place at the Nelson Mandela University in Port Elizabeth on Monday, 30 March 2015.
It must be emphasized that the National Heritage Resources Act of 1999 stipulates particular technical as well as consultative processes that would be followed in the case of a removal and or relocation of a statue.
In fact, it is advisable that a consultative process be initiated at the earliest opportunity in the process where the applicant must notify all conservation bodies, including applying to the South African Heritage Resource Agency or relevant provincial or local structures.
But the entity or community that wants to move or remove the statue or monument will need to undertake a 30 day public consultation process with notifications that include presentation to the authorities and inviting comments from affected and interested parties.
Most importantly, heritage sites and national monuments have cultural significance and value because of their importance to a community in revealing a pattern of South Africa’s history. They demonstrate a particular class of South Africa’s natural or cultural places or objects.
Also, they may hold strong or special association with a particular community or cultural group for social, cultural or spiritual reasons. This may entail a strong or special association with the life or work of a person, group or organization of importance in the history of South Africa.
Thus as a Government that promotes a transformative national agenda, we also accept that the past cannot and should not be completely wiped off.
It is for this reason that as part of transformation, the diverse voices of all citizens of this country must be allowed to express themselves but guided by the law in our efforts to alter the national heritage landscape.
South Africa belongs to all who live in it, united in our diversity. We all have to be agents of the change we want to see in our lifetime.
The government’s attitude and policy to all heritage sites including statues of former imperialists like, Cecil John Rhodes, among others, is based on a national policy of reconciliation, nation building and social cohesion.
Thus we neither support nor encourage the violent removal of any statue because we do not encourage people to take the law into their own hands.
There is absolutely nothing new in the Rhodes development as over the last 20 years we have pursued a heritage landscape transformation agenda including making a place for the newly built Nelson Mandela statue at the Union Buildings.
For enquiries, please contact Sandile Memela: 082 800 3750/ SandileM@dac.gov.za