Destroying Colonial-Era Statues Won’t Change A Thing – Mbeki


Destroying colonial-era statues wouldn’t change any undesirable happenings in South Africa. It’s a waste of time which distracts the nation from attending to the real challenges, former President Thabo Mbeki informed South Africans.

The pulling down of the colonial-era statues in the country started with student protests which eventually caused the removal of Cecil John Rhodes statue from the University of Cape Town’s campus.

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Thereafter, South Africa witnessed a mass destruction of other statues representing the country’s colonial and apartheid-era figures. The idea was to get rid of all reminders of South Africa’s ugly past.

To Mbeki however, the movement isn’t making any meaningful contribution to the progress of the nation. Destroying colonial-era statues only gets the country tensed, he inferred.

“We can’t say that by removing Paul Kruger, you therefore remove that past. It’s a pretense. It’s a show, and in some instances leads to failure to attend to real challenges. You think the symbol is gone, but the substance hasn’t gone.”

The former president related that a young woman once asked him why there were statues of Jan Smuts and Dutch colonial administrator Jan van Riebeeck at the Union Buildings.

“She said to me, ‘but how could you do that? How could you leave those people there?’ I said to her, ‘Why not? They are part of our history. We have our heroes and heroines. Why don’t we build our own statues in addition, instead of saying remove these?'”

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Mbeki said young Africans ought to be given a more positive view of their history. “How educated are we about ourselves? Do we know our history?” He asked and added that it’s not right for Africans to view themselves predominantly as victims of slavery, colonialism and apartheid.