Early last week the University of Free State (UFS) council approved the relocation of the statue of former colonial president of the Orange Free State Marthinus Theunis Steyn which is currently located in front of the main building at the Bloemfontein campus.
The decision comes after a long discussion on the removal of the statue which dates back to 2003, students have been calling for the removal of the statue to reflect the university’s Integrated Transformation Plan (ITP) which deals with names, symbols and spaces and reviewing of how space and symbolic representation reflects or hinders social inclusion in a diverse community, the statue of Steyn was identified as a priority to be dealt with.
Prof Francis Petersen, rector and vice-chancellor in a press statement acknowledged the urgency of the matter and appointed the special task team to review the position of the statue.
The special task team considered four options during the review process, retention of the statue in its current position, reinterpretation of the statue and the space around it, relocation of the statue on campus, relocation of the statue to a site off campus. The relocation will be done in complete cooperation with the family of MT Steyn.
“The special task team found that there can be no historical interpretation of the statue and the space around it without relocation. This finding is supported by the university’s executive management. Members of the special task team will form part of the reconfiguration process,” said Petersen
The university wants to focus on neutral values shared by all communities that are represented by the campus and show a sense of caring while it remains a welcoming and belonging place.
“The UFS will continue to build an established values such as respect, tolerance, listening to one another, forward-looking and social justice and serve the mandate of reconciliation and real transformation,” concluded Peterson.