”It wasn’t us who did it but we do commend the attack,” Moafrika Mabongwana, the EFF’s deputy chairman for Tshwane, told ANA on Monday afternoon. Confusion arose after EFF national spokesman and MP Mbuyiseni Ndlozi was quoted as telling reporters EFF members in Gauteng had claimed responsibility for the attack on the Tranvaal Republic president’s likeness on Sunday.
It was condemned by Tshwane mayoral spokesman Blessing Manale who said the city had posted a police guards around the statue and would clean it on Tuesday. “We think we will start on Tuesday morning. We don’t want to use chemicals that will affect the actual material underneath.”
Manale said some 10 policemen had been stationed around the statue after vandals covered two of the four bronze sentries surrounding Kruger in bright green paint as passers-by captured video footage late on Sunday. The raised figure of Kruger, which was moved to the square in 1954 and unveiled by then Prime Minister DF Malan, escaped with a few paint splatters.
“Private citizens have video footage and we have already handed it over to the police,” Manale said.
The EFF, who last week vowed to tear down all statues of white minority leaders in Pretoria, said the call was met with enthusiasm but they were not sure who had targeted the statue.
“I know there are community members who have embarked on an action to deface these symbols and I think we should commend them,” said Mandisa Mashego, the party’s acting chairwoman in Gauteng.
“We must deface anything that represents colonialism in a physical, tangible way. I think people can accept that Jews will have a problem with Hitler being glorified. As Africans we have a very serious problem with the representation of colonialism.”
On Monday morning, Ndlozi posted a call on his Twitter account to remove the statue of Jan van Riebeeck in Cape Town, reading: “Jan van Riebeeck must fall: he is situated in Adderley Street, Cape Town.”
Ndlozi declined to comment on the defacing of Kruger’s statue but told ANA: “All these statues must go down. We need to craft a new symbolism to remember and commemorate the colonial and apartheid past that is not based only on icons of white supremacy like Jan van Riebeeck and Paul Kruger but shows freedom fighters, black and white, who opposed it.”
Monday marked the 363rd anniversary of the Dutch colonial administrator’s arrival in the Cape.
The EFF has intensified its calls for the removal of statues of colonial and apartheid rulers in recent weeks against the backdrop of the heated student campaign at the University of Cape Town to topple its prominent statue of Cecil John Rhodes.
Last week, the ANC Youth League also called for the removal of Kruger’s statue in Pretoria. Tshwane mayor Kgosientso Ramokgopa responded by saying he viewed the call as a necessary part of the national debate around representation of the past.
Manele said on Monday he did not know who was responsible for the paint attack.
“Nobody has claimed responsibility, so at this stage we don’t know if it was an opportunistic act or linked to the ANC Youth League’s call last week to remove the statue,” he added.
Several onlookers were at the scene in Church Square on Monday, using cellphones to take photographs.
Pretoria resident John Tengwa said the defacing was “disrespectful” to South Africa’s heritage.
“The perpetrators are destroying valuable history. I think this is done by misguided, misinformed politicians,” he said.
Kruger was the president of the South African Republic from 1883 to 1890. The statue is the work of Dutch sculptor Anton van Wouw.