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Thursday Oct 18, 2012

Royal row over King Shaka statues

The KZN provincial government has come under fire for "wasting" taxpayers money on two statues of King Shaka which together have cost about R6.4 million.

Construction of the new R3.2m statue of King Shaka is to begin next month, two years after the original R3.2m statue - sculpted by renowned Durban artist Andries Botha - was removed from the King Shaka International Airport.

Responses to questions put to Premier Zweli Mkhize by the DA's provincial leader, Sizwe Mchunu, have revealed that the cost of removing the sculpture was R11 360.

It is understood that the old statue was in storage. Its removal followed complaints from King Goodwill Zwelithini and other members of the Zulu royal house.

They said that the sculpture made Shaka look like a herdboy and not the warrior king of Zulu history, and that the spear placed at his feet could mean surrender.

Top KwaZulu-Natal sculptor Peter Hall was then commissioned last year to construct the new statue after consultation with the public, academics, historians, King Zwelithini and senior members of the Zulu royal family.

Botha declined an invitation to be part of a team involved in conceptualising and designing the new statue.

Yesterday, Botha told The Mercury that he was unhappy that his work had been dismantled. To the best of his knowledge, the statue was being kept at the Dube TradePort storage.

He said he had written to Dube TradePort requesting that they remove the remaining pieces of the artwork, which included a bull, a cow and two calves, he said.

His contention was that the remaining pieces of his work were displayed next to two traditional huts and this made them seem like a "backdrop to a commercial outlet".

"I waited patiently and asked them, in a positive light, to remove the balance of the sculpture because, in its current state, it violates the integrity of the work," Botha said.

"Constitutionally no one can deconstruct a work of art."

Hall told The Mercury that he was under contractual obligation not to speak to the press at this stage and said media queries should be directed to the premier's office.

Mchunu said that it was difficult to comprehend how the KZN government could condone spending R6.4m on statues, given the massive challenges facing the province, particularly in education, housing and the health sector.

The money could have built 21 classrooms or 71 RDP houses, including services and municipal input, he said.

"While it is important to honour our history and commemorate leaders who form an integral part of our heritage, it should not be at the expense of our future," he said.

Mkhize's spokesman, Ndabezinhle Sibiya, said: "We want to assure KwaZulu-Natal that all details relating to this important work will be announced by the premier on his return from India."

The Mercury

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