A Buffalo City Metro council debate to allocate and approve a site for a “life size” statue of Dr WB Rubusana in front of the East London City Hall this week turned into a verbal battle between the ANC and DA.
Some DA councillors queried the initiative, raising questions about “missing information” in the report such as ownership of the statue and protection and security for it.
BCM mayor Xola Pakati at the meeting, the DA tried to persuade council not to approve the item yet, saying the report was not detailed enough.
The planned erection of Rubusana’s statue comes after the ANC in BCM honoured him by naming their party’s regional structure after him. Rubusana was a well known leader in religious, sport and political circles. He headed the South African Native Convention and led a delegation to London to protest against the 1913 Native Land Act.
BCM mayor Xola Pakati was quick to defend the idea against the queries and told the councillors: “Don’t push us.”
The DA wanted to know who would be responsible for the statue’s maintenance and who would safeguard it against vandalism.
DA councillor Geoff Walton asked: “How will ownership of the statue be formed?”
He also asked in which asset register the statue would be listed, saying this was needed for accounting purposes.
Another DA councillor, Bill Gould, said there was no justification for any “urgency” of the project.
“Firstly we are told that there is urgency. However, there’s no justification in the report. Council should not be rushed into something under false pretences.
“None of Rubusana’s stories appear in the report. What is missing in the report is significant and an important omission is the biography of Rubusana,” he said.
He recommended that Rubu-sana’s autobiography be included in the report before council gave it the nod.
An unimpressed Pakati accused the DA councillors of being “ignorant”.
He pointed to the colonial-era statue of a man on a horse in front of the city hall – which he said had no significance to the governing ANC party.
“When we seek to object we should not use ignorance as a tool to do so, because a similar question can be asked about who is this British soldier sitting on a horse in front of the city hall? What is the significance of that soldier in the new political dispensation?
“So we should not go there.
“The question about vandalism is a valid one. The question about who will take charge of the maintenance of that [statue] is a valid one but I don’t think you should push us to a point of questioning.
“As you go up to my office there is a list of British soldiers there.
“We never got who are those soldiers or to have that list replaced because it has no significance to us.
“So to us Dr Rubusana is a leader of the city and a leader of the African National Congress, which we represent, so please don’t push us,” he charged to applause from ANC benches.
Gould then rose and called on Pakati to withdraw his comments and apologise for accusing them of ignorance, but council speaker Alfred Mtsi (ANC) defended the mayor, saying he was on point therefore did not have to withdraw.
DA councillor Isabel Thompson asked for the protection of all statues in the metro’s cities, citing vandalisation of Archbishop Desmond Tutu’s statue in which the nose, glasses and hands were chipped off. “The Desmond Tutu statue is really a disgrace to the city. When we have these statues they must be protected and maintained,” she said.
The site was approved by the council, paving the way for erection of the statue.