Tambo statue not the first to be vandalised

Simelane statue vandalised – again

Last week we reported that a statue of Oliver Tambo was the first to be vandalised. We were wrong and apologise for the mistake.

It turns out that the doubtful honour of being the first to have his statue vandalised belongs to ANC struggle hero Nokuthula Simelane who, last week, became the victim of a second paint attack at the Bethal Cultural Precinct in Mpumalanga.

The first attack took place in 2011 when two young white men not only vandalised the statue, but also attempted to cart it off on the back of a bakkie. The attempt to steal the statue ended in disaster for them when the bakkie suffered a puncture and they were arrested.

Contrary to the double standards currently being displayed by some high-profile public figures regarding such acts of vandalism, the cultural organisation AfriForum to their credit condemned the perpetrators. Its chief executive officer, Kallie Kriel, said if people were frustrated, they should look for legal ways to vent their frustration.

He further said “AfriForum supports the concept of mutual recognition and respect among communities”. If his suggestion at the time was followed up the present wave of vandalism of statues might have been avoided.

Although there were reports at the time that the two young men will be appearing in court, no reports of what happened in the case could be found.

As is the case with people arrested in connection with xenophobic violence, arrests for vandalising statues seldom, if ever, result in convictions.

And this trend seems to continue. Almost unbelievably, the case against a man accused of vandalising a statue of Queen Victoria in Port Elizabeth was withdrawn last week.

The case against a white member of the Economic Freedom Fighters was dropped due to “insufficient evidence” despite the fact that:

  • There is CCTV footage of the incident;
  • The accused handed himself over to the police in the presence of his attorney;
  • He made a confession; and
  • He was identified from the CCTV footage.

It would seem that two crucial elements to break the present built-up of tension in communities are absent in the response to both the vandalism and violence: Positive programmes to defuse issues and violators made to and seen to be suffering the consequences of their misdeeds.

by Piet Coetzer

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