Statue of Winnie Mandela must replace one of Boer leader Paul Kruger, demand radical South Africa politicians

Jon Sharman
The statue of Paul Kruger in Pretoria's Church Square has been fenced off following vandalism: Google Street View

A radical left-wing political party in South Africa has called for a statue of Boer leader Paul Kruger to be pulled down and replaced by one of Winnie Mandela.

The call is part of an ongoing campaign by the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) group, which has been criticised for using racially-charged language and describes itself as “militant”.

Its leader, Julius Malema, said his party would “expropriate the land upon which [the] statue is standing”, according to The Daily Telegraph, and added: “He was a racist. His statue must go, his people with it.”

Mr Malema, a former African National Congress youth leader, has previously been convicted of hate speech for singing anti-white songs including “Shoot the Boer”.

Kruger was president of the South African Republic between 1883 and 1900 and the opponent of Britain during the Second Boer War. Buried a hero by supporters, he is seen by some as symbolic of an oppressive system.

His statue in Pretoria has previously been defaced with bright green paint and a fence was erected to protect it.

An EFF councillor, Moaferika Mabogoane, said it was ”unpleasant” that some street names were still associated with “racist apartheid leaders”.

“It is a shame that these dark figures of our ugly past continue to haunt us as we walk and drive on our roads,” IOL reported him as saying earlier this month.

Kruger died nearly half a century before apartheid was implemented though people of colour were discriminated against during the time of the republic.

The figure with whom the EFF proposes to replace him, however, is also controversial.

An anti-apartheid campaigner and member of parliament who was married to Nelson Mandela for 37 years, Winnie Mandela was condemned for human rights violations by South Africa’s reconciliation commission.

The body, chaired by Archbishop Desmond Tutu, found she was ”accountable, politically and morally, for the gross violations of human rights committed by [her bodyguards] the Mandela United Football Club”, which “developed into a private vigilante unit”.

Mandela was convicted of kidnapping and being an accessory to assault after a number of youths were kidnapped and then assaulted in her home in 1988. The six-year prison sentence was reduced on appeal to a fine and a two-year suspended sentence - with the assult connviction being struck down. Mandela had pleaded her innocence.

Statues commemorating South Africa’s past have been hotly debated before and others, including one of Queen Victoria, have been defaced. A “Rhodes must fall” campaign began when a student threw excrement over a statue of colonialist Cecil Rhodes in 2015 at the University of Cape Town.