Buthelezi slams ‘infantile obsession’ with removing colonial and apartheid statues

Members of the Black People’s National Crisis Committee protest in front of parliament for the removal of a statue of Louis Botha, first prime minister of the Union of SA.
Image: Esa Alexander

Former IFP leader Prince Mangosuthu Buthelezi has warned against the removal of statues of colonial and apartheid leaders, saying doing so would be akin to wiping out part of SA’s history.

Buthelezi, the leader of the IFP caucus in parliament, was speaking during a parliamentary budget debate of the sports, arts and culture department on Tuesday.

He revealed that when he was part of late president Nelson Mandela’s cabinet, then minister of sports and recreation Steve Tshwete, also late, objected to the presence of Louis Botha’s statue outside parliament’s gates.

Botha was the first prime minister of the Union of South Africa, between 1910 and 1919.

Buthelezi said he disagreed with Tshwete back then, and suggested that he still disagrees with the removal of statues.

“Of course, it was something that was historically important for me because my grandfather King Dinuzulu [kaCetshwayo], after he had been exiled in St Helena and later accused of treason, was actually released by him [Botha] when he became prime minister because they were apparently friends before,” said Buthelezi.

“He actually banished him to Uitkyk farm, so my grandfather died there.”

He said the country must not have an “infantile obsession” of getting rid of all statues indiscriminately.

“If we must have a record of our saints, I think we must have a record of our villains as well because then our history becomes a bit truncated. If we think [about it], by removing the statues we are wiping off a part of [the] history of our country,” said Buthelezi.

Sports, arts and culture minister Nathi Mthethwa said this was a matter that MPs had to discuss in line with the law.

“These are not just architectural pieces. They have a particular meaning, they have a particular culture and they talk to a particular hegemony,” said Mthethwa.

There have been calls and attempts in recent days to remove Botha’s statue outside parliament.

MPs also reflected on the recent issues around lack of transformation in sport, with ANC MP Beauty Dlulane, saying her party has always used sport, arts and culture as terrains of transformation and to advance social cohesion and unite the nation.

“Let me also express my grave concern about the issues of sport transformation that have come to the fore. In the last few weeks, we have seen a tug of war in the Cricket SA on the campaign of Black Lives Matter,” said Dlulane.

“There have been issues raised which has caused a rift to be seen by the public. This was incited by the revelations made by cricketer Lungi Ngidi which later led to disheartening revelations by Makhaya Ntini on his experiences in the national team.

“We wish to state upfront that the ANC-led government supports and promotes practical transformation in sport.”

EFF MP Ringo Madlingozi accused sporting codes that were previously dominated by white people at a professional level as being used by white people to exclude blacks.

“We have always known that in rugby, it is the Afrikaans language and the Afrikaans culture that is the sine qua non for full participation and acceptance. Those who do not belong to this culture, or to the race, have always been excluded,” he said.

“Equally so with cricket. The revelations by Makhaya Ntini about the deep-rooted racism racism in cricket should not come as a shock. We have allowed white supremacists to dictate terms in our society for far too long.”

Madlingozi called for legislative mechanisms to be used to change this.


Leave a Reply