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03 June 2020 | Story Lacea Loader

On 1 June 2020, the University of the Free State (UFS) received confirmation from the Member of the Executive Council (MEC) for Sport, Arts, Culture and Recreation, Ms Limakatso Mahasa, that the relocation of the statue to the War Museum in Bloemfontein has been endorsed. The university was also informed that a permit will now be issued by the Free State Provincial Heritage Resources Authority (FSPHRA) for the dismantling, temporary storage, and relocation of the statue to the War Museum.

The notice from MEC Mahasa comes after the Appeal Committee of the FSPHRA decided on 20 August 2019 to uphold appeals from interested parties and to keep the statue at the UFS. Subsequently, the Special Task Team appointed by Prof Francis Petersen, Rector and Vice-Chancellor of the UFS, to develop and implement a framework to engage with a review process on the position of the statue in front of the Main Building on the Bloemfontein Campus, submitted an urgent request to MEC Mahasa to appoint a tribunal and refer the university’s appeal in terms of and in accordance with the provisions of Section 49(2) of the National Heritage Resources Act (NHRA), No 25 of 1999.

“The university’s executive appreciates the endorsement by MEC Mahasa and is satisfied with the findings of the Tribunal Committee, which supports the relocation of the statue. The University Council approved the relocation of the statue on 23 November 2018, after which an extensive process was followed to obtain a permit from the FSPHRA to relocate the statue. The Special Task Team went to great lengths to demonstrate the thoroughness of the public participation process and other supportive steps taken by the university,” says Prof Petersen.

“As there is no precedent for such a public participation process under the current South African law, the Special Task Team was at all times guided by the principles of fairness, inclusivity, and objectivity. It was not an easy process, but the outcome is a significant milestone,” says Prof Petersen.

The findings of the Tribunal Committee include, inter alia, that the university has followed the correct application procedure for the permit, that a proper public participation process was followed that was more comprehensive than required by law, and that no procedural unfairness took place during the public participation process. The Tribunal Committee furthermore found that the decision by the FSPHRA on 30 April 2019 to issue the permit was correct, and that the Appeals Committee appointed by the FSPHRA erred in its decision to uphold the appeal. As a pre-condition, the Tribunal Committee also determined that a conservation plan must be prepared by the university in order to address the process of relocating the statue.

According to Prof Petersen, the university welcomes the findings of the Tribunal Committee as it is in line with the Heritage Impact Assessment Report (HIA) and conservation plan initially submitted to the FSPHRA as part of the application for a permit.   

“While we await the issuing of the permit by the FSPHRA, we will now proceed with the necessary arrangements for the relocation of the statue, such as appointing a team for the dismantling, temporary storage, and re-assembly of the statue at the War Museum and appointing a heritage architect to oversee the process. The wishes of President Steyn’s family will be accommodated during the relocation process, as per the findings of the Tribunal Committee,” he says.  

Released by:
Lacea Loader (Director: Communication and Marketing)
Telephone: +27 51 401 2584 | +27 83 645 2454
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