Arts and Culture minister Nathi Mthethwa says that the government will look at removing statues linked to apartheid and colonialism, and could transfer them to a ‘theme park’ to be viewed as part of the country’s history.
In a parliamentary presentation on Thursday (3 September), Mthethwa said that a governmental cluster had recommended an audit of offensive names, symbols and structures in the country as well as the development of a framework for the relocation of these statues.
“The cluster advocated for the development of a theme park or theme parks which will be cultural spaces hosting the relocated statues or memorials. The ‘theme’ for the theme parks will be for the protagonists of colonialism and apartheid,” he said.
Mthethwa said that these statutes should be moved in a prescribed manner and that their preservation was protected under current legislation.
“We have decided that they should be preserved and not thrown into ‘the dustbin’ of history. Our own experience shows us that if you opt for the route of dumping them, people are going to demand them.”
The minister said that these theme parks would be erected in the name of posterity and were effectively be in line with the adage ‘lest we forget’.
Mthethwa said that the government also plans to make a number of changes to the names of places, streets and public spaces so that the country’s geographic landscape is more representative of its people.
Despite a number of changes made over the past two decades, Mthethwa said that the country’s black majority is still a cultural minority as apartheid and colonial symbols still dominate the landscape.
Mthethwa said that these changes will be subject to a public participation process, which, while ‘painstakingly slow’, has to be completed to avoid legal challenges.
Mthethwa’s comments come after the Eastern Cape government said it is considering an official name change for several towns in the province.
The major metropolitan of East London has been identified as one of the towns which could see a change, with KuGompo provided as an alternate name.
Other proposed changes include:
- King William’s Town renamed to Qonce;
- Berlin renamed to Ntabozuko;
- East London Airport renamed to King Phalo Airport.
In 2018, the Eastern Cape city of Grahamstown officially had its name changed to Makhanda as part of the same initiative.