The life sized statue Solomon Thekiso Plaatje was placed on the corner of Bultfontein Road & Long Street and scheduled to be officially unveiled on Heritage Day, 24 September 2008. A struggle between the Family of Sol Plaatje and the Northern Cape Provincial Government led the last minute cancellation of the unveiling. For nine years the statue which initially cost around R600 000 was placed in the care of and stored by the McGregor Museum.
The statue is now expected to go to Sol Plaatje University after Bongiwe Mbinqo-Gigaba, the Sports, Arts & Culture MEC, approved a request by the Sol Plaatje University that the statue be donated to the institution. “As part of our mandate to transform the provincial heritage landscape, we donated the statue which we had to the Sol Plaatje University after we received a letter from them,” Mbinqo-Gigaba said.
“The statue will be erected on the premises of the university which will also be responsible for the financial implications related to its installation and unveiling. The university is named after Sol Plaatje and therefore this is the most suitable and appropriate venue to have it erected.
“There is nothing sinister around the donation of the statue to the university, and it is done with the aim of promoting and preserving the heritage of an icon of the city of Kimberley.”
Nine years ago
Although the family welcomed the erection of the statue in principle they were opposed to ancestor being depicted with a raised clenched fist.
“We wish to state categorically that Sol Plaatje was not just the first general secretary of the ANC, a newspaper editor, journalist, interpreter, linguist and intellectual. To us he was a father, a grandfather and a great-grandfather. He is our ancestor and we owe our allegiance to his memory. It is therefore important to state that as a family we deserve to be involved in all the processes that relate to his legacy and name. We are the custodians of the Plaatje family name.
“The government began the process of ‘honouring’ our grandfather three years ago, but we were only invited to a meeting three weeks ago. That was far too late to implement any of our suggestions. The meeting was simply an informing session. We feel disrespected by that gesture,” said Gopolang Daniel Plaatje, family spokesman.
“The family believes that the way the statue has been constructed is a contradiction of Plaatje’s political stand of the time and therefore a distortion of history. The raised clenched fist – the ‘amandla’ salute – was only introduced after Sol Plaatje’s time. He could not have given that salute. Sol Plaatje was opposed to the militancy within the ANC. In the 1920s he was ‘a leader without people’. He was isolated from the ANC because he was opposed to the militancy, especially in the then Transvaal mines. The family does not support this distorted view of our grandfather.”
The family was also unhappy with the location of the statue on the c/o Bultfontein Road & Long Street. “The gardens are where the Malay Camp was. Sol Plaatje lived and even ran his Tsala ea Becoana newspaper from the Malay Camp. If placed there, the statue would overlook the high court, library and the institute for higher learning. All these institutions can be clearly linked to the life and works of our late grandfather.”