South Africa undoubtedly has an unpleasant and oppressive history in the form of apartheid – and that will soon be memorialised as a ‘theme park’. While most people consider theme parks to be elaborate playgrounds with ferris wheels and cotton candy stands, what government has in the pipeline is about to give it an entirely different meaning.

It seems not much is set in stone at this point, however the park is currently the subject of debate in Parliament. The Minister of Arts and Culture Nathi Mthetwa announced earlier in September 2020, during proceedings in the National Assembly, that a proposal would see colonial statues from all over the country, being relocated to theme parks.

Mthetwa said a government cluster had recommended an audit of offensive names, symbols and structures in the country.

“The cluster advocated for the development of a theme park or theme parks which will be cultural spaces hosting the relocated statues or memorials. The ‘theme’ for the theme parks will be for the protagonists of colonialism and apartheid,” he said.

“We have decided that they should be preserved and not thrown into ‘the dustbin’ of history. Our own experience shows us that if you opt for the route of dumping them, people are going to demand them.”

What’s the next step?

Cabinet has given the greenlight for the recommendations and said a full audit of all the statues symbols and monuments will be done. The outcome would then determine the identification of the proposed cultural nation-building parks.

“Cabinet endorses this process, which will contribute towards nation-building and ensure public spaces reflect the constitutional values of a post-colonial and post-apartheid democratic order. The cultural nation building parks will relocate all the historical details that depict colonialism and apartheid artefacts for future generations,” cabinet said in a statement.

Rhodes Must Fall

It was the controversial Cecil John Rhodes statue at the University of Cape Town, which sparked a movement calling for the removal of colonial-era monuments in 2015.  Students accused the institution of glorifying a man who spearheaded apartheid.

Another statue of the man, which is outside an Oxford college in the United Kingdom, is also set to be removed in 2021.

The institution’s governing body said it would launch an independent commission of inquiry into issues relating to the monument and report back.

“The commission will deal with the issue of the Rhodes legacy and how to improve access and attendance of BAME (Black, Asian and minority ethnic) undergraduate, graduate students and faculty, together with a review of how the college’s 21st century commitment to diversity can sit more easily with its past,” it said.

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Presh JM Reporter

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