Congress of the People believes that South Africa should take into consideration the sage and reasoned advice of political activist and judge Albie Sachs.
COPE fully agrees with him that “instead of extinguishing Rhodes, we should keep him alive on the campus and force him, even if posthumously, to witness surroundings that tell him and the world that he is now living in a constitutional democracy”.
COPE also agrees that “instead of trying to blot out our history” we should be creative with statues of the past “to demonstrate the way white domination had been glorified in the past”.
Sachs makes a compelling argument for transforming structures and monuments of the past. He tells of how the Old Fort prison in Johannesburg, through “a sharp and memorable dialogue led to its being transformed into the Constitutional Court. Today, Constitution Hill has “become one of the most widely acknowledged and admired sites of conscience in the country and, indeed, the world”.
We can also look at India’s approach to colonial statutory before taking any decision. After all, India suffered greatly at the hands of its colonial masters but British colonial statues in Bombay rival that of Manchester and Glasgow combined.
British statues in Calcutta match those of London, the leading city of modern statues. London, likewise has given the statues of Nelson Mandela and of Mahatma Gandhi unparalleled pre-eminence.
One function of statues is to kindle an interest in history. Another function of statues is to represent figures who freed us from oppression. Statues of such heroes help us to celebrate their legacy. By juxtaposing statues of yesteryear andtoday, we highlight the contrast so that ugly history never repeats itself.
COPE believes that we should take the long view and support the line taken by Albie Sachs.
When I (Mosiuoa Lekota) was premier of the Free State, I became the first political leader after 1994 to open a discussion on the relocation of the statue of Verwoerd and as a result of a fully democratic engagement we reached rapprochement with all parties. The majority of South Africans want to see nation building and are agreeable to constructive suggestions on statues and monuments. We do not need polarisation. Nelson Mandela showed us the way and we must follow in his footsteps.
COPE also strongly believes that we should let the National Heritage Council step forward to give direction. We must stay on the path affirming our diversity and leading to the realisation of our goal of nation building.
Mosiuoa Lekota, COPE President
Issued by COPE