eThekwini slams those opposed to R20m statues as being against black unity

Lungelo Gumede's statues of SA's presidents, including Nelson Mandela and Thabo Mbeki, on Durban's M4 highway. Picture: Screenshot.

Two new statues of struggle icons by artist Lungelo Gumede will be erected later this year.

Two new statues of Nelson Mandela and Oliver Tambo which will be erected in Durban this year will set the city back R20 million, eNCA reports.

The statues will be the work of artist Lungelo Gumede, already well known for, among other works, four bronze statues of former presidents Nelson Mandela, Thabo Mbeki, and Jacob Zuma, as well as current president Cyril Ramaphosa, which currently grace Durban’s M4 highway.

According to The Sunday Tribune, those statues were a mere R1.9 million. Why the next two will cost so much more is unclear.

While reports that the two statues had been commissioned have been reported on for at least a year, their steep R20 million price tag appears to be news to many South Africans. An article in KwaZulu-Natal’s Mercury in March 2018 reported the value of the statues was even higher at R21 million, adding that R14 million would need to be diverted from other projects by the municipality to make it happen.

An eNCA reporter noted in an interview with eThekwini head of parks Thembinkosi Ngcobo that news of the statue costing R20 million would likely be met with criticism, especially when looked at against a background of inadequate service delivery.

Ngcobo’s answer appeared to be that he believed the statues would increase unity among black people. He attempted to paint the statues’ detractors as those who stand to benefit from division among South Africa’s black community.

“We as South Africans, more especially black people, we got our identity because of the historical episodes that we went through. The pains of the apartheid system defined us as a group, it forced us to belong together,” said Ngcobo.

READ MORE: Premier wants R8.2m Mandela statue fixed so that it actually looks like him

“The triumph we had over the apartheid system also forced us to be together, and because of that we gained our identity and in politics, there is nothing more important in my view than the politics of identity. Whoever will oppose this is someone who is going to be benefiting if black people were to be less united than they are now, because obviously for them they will have some benefits out of those divisions.

“But for the black people, they should know that the more they talk about their struggles and also preserve the narratives of their struggles, they are more likely to remain united so there are more benefits for them”.

Attempts to contact both Gumede and Ngcobo or another representative of the executive office of eThekwini’s department of parks, recreation, and culture were unsuccessful at the time of publication.

Twitter, so far, does not seem convinced the statues are a worthwhile way to spend R20 million.

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