The acts of statue vandalism that have beset South Africa this year highlight the need for the country to protect its cultural heritage for tourism growth, writes Unathi Sonwabile Henama.
The statue of Afrikaner hero Paul Kruger, located at the centre of Church Square in Pretoria, was defaced for a second time with green paint. This act of vandalism occured just after October 10th, which celebrates Kruger Day, and mere months after the statue of Cecil John Rhodes was smeared with human excrement and removed from the University of Cape Town on April 9th.
These acts of vandalism have occured in a year that South Africans are increasingly debating their collective heritage. The ANC Youth League (ANCYL) in Tshwane, led by Lesego Makhubela has called for the removal of the statue of Paul Kruger from Church Square, while the Rekord newspaper reports that the David Motsamai branch of the ANCYL has also called for the removal of the statue and are apparently preparing to organise a march to agitate for its removal and replace it with statues of the Rivonia Trialists. The trial was named after Rivonia, the suburb of Johannesburg where 19 ANC leaders had been arrested at Liliesleaf Farm, privately owned by Arthur Goldreich, on 11 July 1963. Today, Lilliesleaf is a major tourist attraction and a site of national significance. The Rivonia trialists were charged and convicted to life imprisonment at Robben Island.
A memorial of Rivonia trialist statues on Church Square, in front of the court that sentenced them to life imprisonment, would increase the number of tourists that visit the city centre and increase on the other hand, police visibility in the CBD to the mutual benefit of locals and tourists alike. The ‘’Mandela magic’’ always increases tourist arrivals – you need only ask the Mangaung Municipality and the erection of the Statue of Nelson Mandela at Naval Hill, that was donated by Freddy Kenny, to attest to this fact. The increase in tourist arrivals in the city centre would also reduce the negative impacts of gentrification and increase property prices.
There can be no denying the fact that before 1994, there was Afrikaner hegemony in public displays of culture and heritage. In a paper titled Transforming Tourism: Black Empowerment, Heritage and Identity beyond Apartheid, it is noted that ‘’much of South Africa’s cultural infrastructure, such as monuments and museums, reflect the needs and interests of the white minority, focusing on aspects of colonial heritage rather than offering a more diverse and sensitive portrayal of South African history. Sabine Marschall in her publication titled ‘Making Money with Memories’ noted that monuments and memorials ‘’speak’’ through their symbols, visual signifiers and textual inscriptions. The post apartheid government continues to create statues, monuments and murals to speak about the struggle for liberation. In a paper, ‘The Impact of Politics of Heritage and Cultural Tourism’, Jackie Grobler notes that heritage and tourism are closely linked to a country’s past and this turbulent past is characterised by intergroup contests for supremacy, military conflict, economic exploitation and cultural expression.
This leads to the politicisation of the past, but in this contestation it must be understood that heritage is a product for tourism consumption.
We must not be caught with our eyes off the ball, ours is about using the different heritages to attract money from tourists to address the challenges of poverty, inequality and unemployment.
I will be the first one to call that the statue of Paul Kruger must fall, and be the first to call for the statue of Paul Kruger to rise. South Africa remains a deeply divided nation, therefore Thabo Mbeki’s two nation’s speech in 1996 still resonates. Far too many times the sociology of public discourse in South Africa been defined by lack of appreciation of divergent views.
There are people that regard Paul Kruger as a hero, and they must have space to appreciate their hero in a befitting setting. In an article by Adam Wakefiled, titled ‘Voortrekker Monument willing to take Kruger statue’, the statue of Pretoria can be moved to the Voortrekker Monument, as long as its not lost as part of the heritage of Tshwane. The city is large enough to provide a platform for using different heritages to lead to greater tourism consumption. Heritage must bring us together instead of dividing us. What is imperative is that this common heritage must increase the financial benefit for the citizens of Tshwane.
The City of Tshwane has recently launched the Tshwane National Heritage Monument at Groenkloof with the aim of erecting more than 400 life sized bronze statues of pre-colonial, colonial and anti-apartheid struggle figures. The beauty about the South Africa is that the preamble to the Constitution is clear that ‘’South Africa belongs to all that live in it, united in our diversity’’.
Therefore Paul Kruger must fall, and Paul Kruger must rise. In tourism economics we seek a win-win situation, let them see Paul Kruger and let them see the Rivonia Trialists. Can’t we just get along?
About the Author: Unathi Sonwabile Henama teaches tourism in the Department of Tourism Management at the Tshwane University of Technology. The views expressed in this article are private. Unathi can be contacted via email at: HenamaUS@tut.ac.za or by calling: +27 (0)12 382 5507.