The Student Representative Council (SRC) of the University of the Free State (UFS) will not back down on its plans to have the M.T. Steyn statue on the campus removed.
However, the controversial matter of whether the statue of Martinus Theunis Steyn, former president of the independent Orange Free State from 1896 to 1902, should be removed at the UFS Bloemfontein campus remains under deliberation.
While no decision has been taken as yet on both the covering as well as the much debated removal of the statue, the University’s SRC says it will do all it can to have the statue removed.
Even though the matter of removing the statue seems far off, the university has undertaken to ask its stakeholders to submit written and oral submissions on whether they agree or disagree that the statue should be covered. This is at least until the formal review process on the position of the statue has been concluded.
This process of submissions concluded last week Wednesday, 11 April, and according to the University’s spokesperson, Lacea Loader, the university’s special task team which is overseeing the matter, has received 71 written and 3 oral submissions.
The UFS website states that these submissions will be included in a submission to the Free State Provincial Heritage Resources Authority (FSHRA) in order to obtain a permit for the possible covering of the statue. Furthermore, an independent analysis of the submissions is currently underway.
The UFS has committed to updating its community on the outcome of the decision by the FSHRA regarding the possible covering of the statue as well as the results of the independent analysis.
Meanwhile, UFS’ SRC President, Asive Dlanjwa, maintains that the statue does not represent the values of the university as well as South Africa as a democratic nation, hence they are calling for the covering and hopefully, later on, the removal thereof.
Despite this, Dlanjwa said that while the SRC hopes to have the statue removed and vows that it will do everything within its powers to have it removed, it aims to first consult all stakeholders in this process. “We want the statue to be removed, however, we want it to be done through a consultative process so that interested parties have an opportunity to make their submissions also within this regard,” Dlanjwa said.
Totally opposed to the covering and removal of the statue is AfriForum’s Youth Kovsies branch, which says that the statue is important not only for the preservation of the Afrikaner culture but for South Africa’s heritage in totality.
In a statement issued last week, AfriForum Youth revealed that it has made its submissions and is opposed to the concealment as well as removal of the statue from the University’s Bloemfontein campus.
AfriForum Youth’s National Coordinator, Chantelle du Preez said, “We believe in cultural freedom, which comprises mutual recognition and respect for each other’s heritage, language, and culture. AfriForum Youth yearns for a culture of inclusivity on campus, but if one group’s heritage is not welcome, how must all the students feel welcome?” She further revealed that the trade union intends to launch a campaign opposing the removal of the statue. “We want to inform students about who M.T. Steyn really was,” Du Preez said.
She further added that Dlanjwa’s statements created an impression that Steyn started apartheid, which she said is not the case. “M.T. Steyn already died in 1916, a considerable time before apartheid was instituted,” Du Preez said in the statement.
She concluded by calling for the involvement of all stakeholders, whom she said should protect Afrikaner heritage for the coming generations.