(Photo: “Robert E. Lee Monument” by Joseph / Flickr / CC BY-NC-SA 2.0.)

Lesson #2 — The Case of the Removal of the President M.T. Steyn Statue from the University of the Free State campus in Bloemfontein, South Africa

Summary: This video describes how protests, attempted destruction and vandalism on campus prompted the University’s rector to apply for a removal and relocation permit. It describes the role of the Constitution of the Republic of South Africa of 1996 and legislation that was designed to protect the country’s heritage resources. The public participation process undertaken by the task team and the outcome of various appeals are discussed.

Reflection and Discussion Question:

The person of President M.T. Steyn cannot be directly linked to the system of apartheid, but because his statue was erected by a white student group that valued racist ideals, current students who represent a changed demographic, object to the presence of the statue on campus, because they associate it with apartheid. Since the end of apartheid, many statues of national icon Nelson Mandela have been erected in public open space. Mandela was the first president elected in democratic South Africa and the leader of the African National Congress (ANC). After the death of Mandela, the ANC, which is still the ruling party, has been associated with rampant corruption, mismanagement of state-owned enterprises and state-capture. Can you envisage a future where calls for the removal of Mandela’s statues from public open space are heard due to his direct association with the ANC? If not, why not?