Political parties weigh in on removal of Steyn statue

Political parties expressed polarising opinions on the relocation of the statue of President MT Steyn from the UFS during a Legislature sitting. PHOTO: NOMAQAWE MTEBELE

The Free State Freedom Front Plus (FFP) has condemned plans to remove the statue of President MT Steyn from the University of the Free State (UFS) during a sitting of Legislature in Bloemfontein this week.
This comes after the educational institution announced last week that the statue may be relocated to the War Museum. According to FFP’s member of Legislature, Tammy Wessels, the move is a failed attempt at transformation. “Steyn was a president who fought against colonialism. The university decided to ignore the truth about who and what he was and the work he did for the Free State. The university gave away heritage because of political pressure,” said Wessels.
However, MEC of Social Development, Butana Komphela, stated that the presence of the statue had a negative effect on students. “History does not lie and it cannot be changed. The issue of the statue of President Steyn can never be the pride of African people. It does not reflect discrimination for the statue to be removed because it was a reminder of a cruel part of history,” said Komphela. The decision to relocate the contentious statue follows a recommendation made by a special task team in a report to the rector and vice-chancellor, Prof. Francis Petersen, that the statue should be relocated to a site off campus. “The executive management supports the recommendation made by the special task team for the relocation of the statue to a site off campus and indicated that the public participation process preceding the recommendation of the special task team was sufficiently thorough, transparent, inclusive, and well-publicised,” Petersen said.
Wessels, however, stated that the removal serves to discriminate against groups of people. “It was suggested that the university put up other leaders who are important rather than removing current statues. It would have shown that transformation is taking place and would have made everyone feel welcome,” she said. “Although the relocation of the statue has the potential to create division within the university community, the public participation process demonstrated the potential for creating a level of tolerance, with different members of the university community listening to the views of others,” said Petersen.