Social media users have questioned whether about R20m set aside for two statues by the eThekwini municipality could have been better spent on pressing service delivery issues.
This followed a report on Monday that the municipality had awarded a tender of more than R20m to sculptor Lungelo Gumede for statues of late struggle stalwarts Nelson Mandela and Oliver Tambo, to be unveiled later this year.
Thembinkosi Ngcobo, eThekwini head of parks, recreation and culture, said that he could not yet comment on the matter. He said the municipality would hold a media conference regarding the statues on Thursday.
The decision to erect the statues in Durban was approved by the City’s executive committee a year ago.
According to the municipality’s website, a report tabled at that meeting said the project would honor and pay tribute to those who fought apartheid and also “play a role in transforming the heritage landscape of the City and boost the local economy”.
The Mercury reported in March that funds would be reallocated from other projects to fund the statues but that the City had said service delivery would not be affected as the projects were ones which had stalled.
DA eThekwini councilor Ganas Govender said it was not that the party disapproved of the statues but that it believed the cost was “exorbitant”.
“This is made worse when the budget is taken from areas of much-needed service delivery. The original stated cost of the statues was R13m, while the DA asked why businesses and tourism organizations couldn’t be approached to cover some of the cost,” Govender said at the time.
Ngcobo said that he believed the statues would strengthen unity.
“Whoever that will oppose this is someone who is going to be benefitting if black people were to be less united than they are now because, obviously for them, they will have some benefits out of those divisions,” he said.
Many people on Twitter questioned the cost of the statues and whether the money could have been better spent on other causes.
Why is our government still spending millions on statues when there are people living in extreme poverty?
— Karabo Mokgoko 🦄 (@Karabo_Mokgoko) January 7, 2019