Controversial statue finally unveiled in Pretoria

The plastics on Thursday finally came off the controversial statue of the man said to have inspired the naming of the metropole of Tshwane.

The 6,2m bronzed figure of Chief Tshwane was unveiled in a low-key ceremony outside the Pretoria city hall, months after it was erected and put under wraps.

Mayoral committee member Absalom Ditshoke conducted the unveiling as members of the Royal Tshwane household looked on.

Ditshoke stood in for Tshwane mayor Gwen Ramokgopa, whose name is engraved on the base of the statue as the one who did the unveiling.

Ramokgopa was away on a trip to Germany for the Soccer World Cup final.

The almost R1-million price tag of the statue caused controversy from the outset. There were also differences of opinion on whether a Chief Tshwane ever existed.

Adding fuel to the fire was a request by Ramokgopa in May for the statue to replace that of former Zuid-Afrikaanse Republic (ZAR) President Paul Kruger on Church Square.

Several opposition parties and citizens groups expressed outrage.

The African National Congress in Pretoria quickly denied Chief Tshwane was to replace “Oom Paul”, saying the chief would remain in front of the City Hall.

The statue made new headlines when sculpture Angus Taylor warned the bronze would turn green if kept under plastic and cloth for too long,

Chief Tshwane stands only a few metres away from statues of former ZAR President Marthinus Wessel Pretorius and his father Andries, after whom Pretoria was named.

A note at the bottom of the President Pretorius statue claims 1855 as the date that the Voortrekkers founded the city and named it.

An engraving at the base Chief Tshwane’s statue says it was through his “existence our city, origin and history sprung”.

A proposal that the city of Pretoria also be named Tshwane is still being considered by Minister of Arts and Culture Pallo Jordan.—Sapa

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