Media statement by the Heritage Association of South Africa
13 April 2015
HASA notes with regret that a permit was granted by the HWC for the removal of the Rhodes Statue at UCT, without the appropriate consultation with interested and affected stakeholders which includes the heritage community.
This requirement of the National Heritage Resources Act is applicable even in the case of a temporary permit, which should only be granted following public consultation, after considering all available information and perspectives and giving a clear indication of how UCT will meet its obligations to return the statue if required.
In short, we believe that decisions of such a sensitive nature should not have been taken as it sends a message to the wider public and other institutions that heritage can be destroyed, damaged or altered simply because it is unwanted or politically unappetizing. The act in the general principles of heritage management specifically warns against the use of heritage for sectarian or political gains(section 5)1)d. As the whole wave of protest is founded upon political ideals it was particulaly important to consult before the permit was issued. In response to the decision of the senate UCT as an institution of higher learning should have provided a reasoned argument based upon the original commission of the statue , who erected it , when it was erected and if moved why it was moved and when. Without this information a reasoned opinion as to the validity of the request to remove it cannot be taken.
According to information at our disposal the land for this institution, the State President’s official residence, reception areas, as well as vast tracts of land around the mountain are there through the bequest of Rhodes – he is therefore inextricably linked with UCT’s history.
As South Africans we live in a developing democratic state where we have both a parliament and a house of traditional leaders. Where we recognise kings and chiefs out of an old feudal-based system of rule, side by side with our modern democracy. In a state where old enemies live and rule side by side, from the Khoi rebellions of 1700 and 1739, the frontier wars of the 19thcentury and the Anglo-Boer South African war. This peaceful transition has been achieved by the mutual respect for the traditions, customs and history of our separate but mutual history and acceptance of our separate but combined heritage in our movement into democracy and majority rule.
The corner stone of this remarkable transition is reflected in the preamble and detail of the Heritage Resources Act introduced after democracy, and in the constitution. In fulfillment of the ideals of this act and the constitution, all traditions statues and customs of the various influences that formed this amazing country are to be respected, maintained and preserved as symbols of what we were, what we have achieved and how we have overcome our differences and proceeded into the future as a united country. The South African National anthem, our flag, and the establishment of the Mandela/Rhodes trust are results of this noble ideal.
The heritage act clearly spells out that heritage of all parties is a common heritage and must not be used for political or secular purposes. UCT had a proud tradition of respect for the rights of all South Africans. UCT’s capitulation to secular political interests, rather than the harder choice of supporting and educating their students in the needs of a plural democracy, is an insult to its past students and the institution’s principles.
We therefore wish to state unequivocally that we are fully committed to all the provisions set out in the act . This unfortunately cannot happen by rashly and hastily trying to erase aspects from our painful past because of the threat of violence.
Our associates have fought for the protection of pre-colonial archaeological sites, for paleontological sites, for our natural heritage, for sites of anti-colonial resistance, for struggle heritage and for sites and objects of our material culture from all spheres of our population. We will continue to do this when our heritage is threatened.