A monument in honour of President Jacob Zuma was nearing completion in the North West in what was expected to lead to another uproar amid escalating criticism from the public.
In March, the provincial government dropped plans in which millions of rands were going to be spent to erect a statue for Zuma in the wake of public uproar against it.
A decision was taken to rather build a monument on the same site along the N14 in Groot Marico, near Zeerust. This is where Zuma was arrested 54 years ago while trying to skip the country into Botswana, together with 45 others.
At the time when the statue plans were announced earlier this year, final touches were being put to the statue of the late political stalwart JB Marks which set back the province around R4 million. No criticism or opposition was ever heard to this.
The provincial government had also advertised another tender for the same six-metre bronze statue to be done for struggle icon Moses Kotane – to no opposition.
However, the uproar over the Zuma statue has now resurfaced after builders were seen at work on the monument site.
The EFF in the North West has promised to not only challenge the Zuma statue in Parliament, but to destroy it once completed.
The party previously promised to tear down the statue had it been built. An EFF member of the provincial legislature, Alfred Motsi, said they did not have a problem with Marks or Kotane statues but they were never going to accept anything with Zuma’s name.
“We never complained and agreed that the two heroes should be honoured for their roles in fighting for the freedom we’re all enjoying today. The thing is those two were not corrupt,” he said.
“Even if they can try to name a toilet after Zuma we’re going to destroy that toilet. We have long opposed plans to honour Zuma in the North West; they cancelled the statue and now are building a monument which we’re going to destroy.”
Motsi said they were going to raise the Zuma monument issue in the provincial legislature. “We will challenge this in the legislature and in the streets,” he said.
The DA leader in the province, Joe McGluwa, has called the planned statue a “monument to corruption and unemployment because that is the legacy of Jacob Zuma which Premier (Supra) Mahumapelo clearly wants to celebrate”.
He also believed the tender was cancelled due to pressure.
“The cancellation shows that under enormous pressure, Supra’s ANC government has been forced to back down from its ridiculous plans to deify Jacob Zuma,” McGluwa said.
Meanwhile, the North West Arts and Culture MEC Ontlametse Mochware said in March that the tender was cancelled because no interest was shown. “(It was cancelled) because bidders were not responsive (and) that is why we have once again requested proposals ...”
Asked to give reasons for the tender cancellation this week, her spokesperson Shuping Sebolecwe gave a contradicting statement saying it was to “give the community of Groot Marico more opportunity to make inputs towards the design and outlook of the monument”.
Sebolecwe told City Press that a bronze statue would normally cost “around R 3 million”. He said less money was being spent on the monument.
“So far the department will spend approximately R900 000 for the monument,” he said.
Sebolecwe added that the project would give birth to a “facility that will offer heritage, arts, culture and tourism opportunities”.
He said the monument, which will consist of eight walls, will resemble a fireball. “The walls will be inscribed with the historical background of the liberation struggle which led to the events of 1963 in which Jacob Zuma and 45 Umkhonto we Sizwe recruits were captured. The site will also have a cultural village that resembles the cultural heritage of the Batswana found in Groot Marico,” Sebolecwe explained.