30 May 2018 | Story Rulanzen Martin | Photo Rulanzen Martin
Future of MT Steyn statue discussed-Prof Johann Rossouw and Dr Luvuyo Dondolo
Prof Johann Rossouw and Dr Luvuyo Dondolo were also on the panel.

The Faculty of the Humanities hosted a panel discussion on the future of the MT Steyn statue on the Bloemfontein Campus of the University of the Free State (UFS). Panellists who came from diverse backgrounds with opposing viewpoints discussed the current position of the statue in front of the Main Building on the campus.

Panellists included academics, student leaders and activists as well as government representatives. They were, Prof Johann Rossouw from the UFS Department of Philosophy; Asive Dlanjwa, SRC president; Mohama Dipolo and Jani Swart, both UFS postgraduate students; Prof Matie Hoffman from the Department of Physics; Mr Ben Mazinga from the South African Heritage Resource Agency(SAHRA); Kelebohile Palane, a UFS student; and Dr Luvuyo Dondolo.

A special task team made a submission to the Free State Heritage Resources Authority (FSHRA). They proposed three options   to cover the statue, fence it, as well use it as a point of engagement. The FSHRA proposed that the statue become a point of engagement. “That is why the Faculty of Humanities decided to host the panel discussion. We are Humanities and we have to talk about it,” said Prof Heidi Hudson, Dean of the faculty. 

The panel discussion took place on 29 May 2018 and was facilitated by Mr Willem Ellis, research fellow at the Centre for Gender and Africa Studies.

An old conversation on future of the Steyn statue

The first speaker, Dr Dondolo, said MT Steyn was a symbol of Afrikaner nationalism. “The values Steyn represents and the values of the UFS and South Africa do not correlate,” he said. Prof Rossouw added that the Steyn statue stood in the way of healing and transformation. 

SRC president Dlanjwa said conversations regarding the statue had started back in 2015 and it was not a new discussion on its future.  

“We are covering the statue because it is a subject under discussion but we have unfortunately lost that battle,” he said. He added: “The removal of the statue has nothing to do with purging a particular section of society. It has everything to do with recognising the existence and humanity of the people that share the space of the UFS.” 

Dipolo said: “We must move away from historical figures to something non-offensive.” This was a step to transform public spaces. 

Mr Mazinga said there had to be an alternative perspective regarding the debate. “It shouldn’t necessarily be about removing, but to also speak to an alternative past.” It was important to transform public spaces as there was an over-representation of one group from the past, he said.

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