Cape Town – The beheaded statue of Cecil John Rhodes at Rhodes Memorial has been repaired and fortified after it was vandalised in July.
The persistence of the Friends of Rhodes Memorial led to the head, weighing over 80kg, being reattached in time for Heritage Day after it had seemingly been removed with the use of an ankle grinder.
It had been found 50 metres away in low scrub three days after it had been cut off and was handed over to SANParks for assessment.
In addition to restoring the head, all the sculptures at Rhodes Memorial have been 3D scanned and full-size replicas have been made as a replacement to counter any damage until the vandals are caught, the Friends of Rhodes Memorial said in a statement.
Additional international trends of anti-vandalism measures – including the filling of industrial cement and iron in the statue as well as the installation of a GPS tracker and other electronic alarm systems – have been installed.
President Cyril Ramaphosa said on Heritage Day that “monuments glorifying our divisive past should be repositioned and relocated”.
The Friends of Rhodes Memorial said: “The Friends made an appeal to SANParks for its restoration and offered a solution to place it back. At first, The Friends were told that the head would not be returned, and it might well end up in a proposed ANC-inspired theme park.
“Through persistence, The Friends pushed for a petition as well as put pressure on the Western Cape Heritage and Cape Town City to get the head back. During this time it was learnt that a local ward councillor and police knew the names of the vandals and would come forward in due course.”
Gabriel Brown, chairman of the Friends of Rhodes Memorial, said: “We are very pleased that the Friends of Rhodes Memorial Membership has grown tremendously. The Monument is visited by hundreds of thousands of people from all around the world as well as locally each year – from all walks of life, races and religions. They are all brought together by a sense of peace, harmony and nation building.
“Rhodes Memorial is one of the finest monuments in the world and it is here in Cape Town. Perhaps we could have two plaques on either side of the bust, the good and bad side of Rhodes.”
Several activist groups aligned with the Black Lives Matter movement have threatened to dismantle statues of colonial figures if the government does not act to remove them.
Black People’s National Crisis Committee convener Songezo Maziz said in June: “These monuments are an insult to black people, who still have to deal with the material and psychological repercussions of the settler colonial conquest.”
The ‘’offensive’’ statues and public memorials include the Rhodes Memorial statue, a statue of Cecil John Rhodes in Cape Town’s Company Gardens, a statue of Jan van Riebeeck and his wife Maria in Cape Town’s Adderley Street, and the General Louis Botha statue outside Parliament.
Ramaphosa said on Thursday that since democracy in 1994, the country had worked to transform its heritage landscape, with the naming and renaming of towns and cities forming part of this, as well as the erection of new statues and monuments.