09 April 2018

As a transforming university, the University of the Free State (UFS) strives to cultivate an environment that is inclusive and socially just. In order to achieve this goal, the UFS adopted an Integrated Transformation Plan (ITP) as a framework to guide the transformation process. One area of transformation which we identified was: Names, Symbols and Spaces. A cross-functional task team responsible for this area is currently embarking on a process of reviewing how space and symbolic representation facilitates or hinders social inclusion in a diverse community. 

Monuments such as statues play an important symbolic role in people’s lives, with each monument being built for specific reasons and intended to serve particular purposes or interests. Monuments are erected as part of a visual culture that continually reminds us of something or someone important; yet, the symbolic value of monuments may change. Such values may acquire or lose importance, depending on fluctuating socio-political dispensations and dispositions. 

The student community, through the Student Representative Council (SRC), has made several representations in the past, and again on 8 March 2018 during a quarterly student engagement session with the Rector and Vice-Chancellor, Prof Francis Petersen, to review the position of the President Steyn statue in front of the Main Building on the Bloemfontein Campus in the current, liminal transformation space – particularly, its symbolic representation within a university community that is striving to create inclusive public spaces and advance nation-building and social cohesion.
 
Prof Petersen acknowledged the urgency of this matter and subsequently appointed a task team to focus on this request. The task team functions as a sub-committee of the ITP work stream on Names, Symbols, and Statues and consists of subject experts, members of the SRC, heritage professionals, and individuals who understand the complex issue of institutional culture.

 The task team recognises the fact that the review is a sensitive process, and has made significant progress while aligning itself to relevant legislation. As part of the review process, the task team has decided to make a submission to the Free State Provincial Heritage Resources Authority in order to obtain a permit to cover the MT Steyn statue while the review process is conducted, and an outcome has been reached. The task team is of the opinion that wrapping the statue symbolises the seriousness and urgency of the review process. 

In preparing the application for a permit to the Provincial Heritage Resource Authority, the task team would like to engage with all relevant stakeholders by requesting them to make submissions, indicating if they agree or disagree with the covering of the statue.
 
Stakeholders can make submissions in the following ways:

Written submissions can be sent to news@ufs.ac.za until 16:30 on Wednesday 11 April 2018.
 
The written submissions will be incorporated in the application for a permit and, after the decision has been made by the permit committee, there will be a 14-day-period during which the public may appeal the decision. 

As part of the Framework of Engagement on the President Steyn statue, the task team is also in the process of appointing a consultant to conduct a heritage impact assessment as required by the heritage authorities. Clear time frames on key deliverables will be shared with the UFS community at the start of the second term. 
The task team is committed to engage on this process with the appropriate urgency, cognisant of what is legislatively required in terms of the heritage authorities.
 
Released by:
Lacea Loader (Director: Communication and Brand Management)
Telephone: +27 51 401 2584 | +27 83 645 2454
Email: news@ufs.ac.za | loaderl@ufs.ac.za
Fax: +27 51 444 6393