Barely two days after the bust of Nelson Mandela was unveiled at Parliament, a police vehicle reversed into it and damaged its right side.
Scarcely two days after the bust of Nelson Mandela was unveiled at Parliament, a police vehicle reversed into it on Wednesday and damaged its right side.
The R2.5-million bust was unveiled amid fanfare on Monday by President Jacob Zuma, in the presence of a number of dignitaries, including members of the Mandela family, former president FW de Klerk, Cabinet ministers and members of Parliament.
Parliament said the 1.5m wide and 2m high (on a plinth) bust, which was erected as part of the 20 years of democracy celebrations, was slightly damaged on Wednesday on the right shoulder, which was dented and scratched.
“An assessment of the damage to the bust was carried out. The bust will today [Wednesday] be removed for repair and is expected to be back in its place tomorrow,” Parliament said in a statement.
The bust was repaired and back in its place at Parliament by 4pm on Wednesday.
It also revealed that the area around the bust is a security zone where no ordinary cars are allowed to park, but blue light vehicles that transport members of the executive would be found parked in the area on any given day when there is a sitting of the National Assembly.
Driver ‘was crying and apologising’
Parliament security staff who spoke on condition of anonymity, as they are not authorised to speak to the media, said the accident happened around 7am, and it was already light at the time.
They said the driver, a male police officer, was in tears after the accident.
“He seemed very remorseful. He was crying and apologising,” said a parliamentary security staff member who witnessed the incident.
When the Mail & Guardian visited the scene at 12.45pm, a number of people including tourists had gathered around the plinth expressing shock at how the accident could have happened.
The bust had already been removed by that time.
The right windows of the police panel van were completely shattered.
Parliamentary spokesperson Luzuko Jacob assured the visitors it would be back up on Thursday. “I now find myself counselling people here,” he said.
A Danish couple, who said they were tourists, were among those shocked at the incident, saying they had seen the bust on their earlier tour of Parliament.
It is not clear whether the bust was insured, but all the property in the Parliament precinct is the responsibility of the department of public works.
Controversy has followed this latest Madiba statue, even before its erection on Monday.
Earlier this month, Parliament admitted to short-circuiting procurement processes because “the bust was an emergency procedure”.
The contract to build the bust was awarded to Koketso Growth, a company owned by Dali Tambo, son of former ANC president Oliver Tambo. The company was also commissioned to create the statue of Mandela at the Union Buildings, which was unveiled last December.
On Monday, Tambo revealed that his company built the bust in a record five weeks, when it would normally take three to four months to build it.