Mpumalanga Heritage has great concerns about the manner of how funds from the limited budget of the Department of Sports, Arts & Culture were spent on the erection of a statue of the previous state president, Nelson Mandela, at the Mpumalanga legislature at Riverside in Mbombela. It came to our knowledge that an amount of up to R8 million was spent without a clear breakdown or budget of the expenditure for the project being open to the public. Indications are that this money was also spent on expenses outside the heritage sphere.
Chairman of Mpumalanga Heritage (MH), Duncan Ballantyne says he also became aware of some public concerns about the aesthetic merits of the six-metre bronze sculpture, though this is of less concern to this organization. The aesthetic merits are a matter apart and the premier of the province, Refilwe Mtshweni, had already said in a media statement that those involved should deal with the matter and come with answers.
The statue was made by local artist Michael Canadas and was cast at his foundry outside White River. According to reports a price for the statue was negotiated by the Department of Sports, Arts & Culture, which was far less than the disputed amount of R8 million which finally changed hands with an unknown facilitator by the name of Mishkah Theron. According to reports in the media, the 25-year-old Theron, operating from a residential address in Mbombela, could not be traced. Apparently, she is the daughter of a well-known Mbombela businessman. Theron’s previous experience in this field, dealing with statues and public memorials, also remains undisclosed.
Mpumalanga Heritage is a civic organisation operating as a registered NPO consisting of paid up members. It is affiliated with the Heritage Association of South Africa (previously The Simon van der Stel Foundation) and enjoys representation on its board of directors. Since the statue was unveiled on 25 September this year, Mpumalanga Heritage has been following reports about this project in the media. These indicate either the Department of Sports, Arts & Culture’s inability or its unwillingness to explain or disclose this matter, amidst rumours indicating that only a portion of the money was allocated to this project. Ballantyne said he is very much aware of the limited funding set aside in the provincial budget for heritage projects in Mpumalanga. He is also aware of the dereliction, followed by the inadequacy, of the Department of Sports, Arts & Culture to maintain and take care of its heritage assets and responsibilities.
Mpumalanga Heritage recently teamed up with the Lowveld and Escarpment Fire Protection Association (LEFPA) to clear up the site and repaint the palisade fencing of the mass grave in Waterval Boven of the 63 Mozambican mine workers who tragically lost their lives on Wednesday, 16 November 1949, in one of the worst rail disasters ever to have occurred in South Africa. The memorial at the site of disaster at the Elands River was also re-erected and reinforced.
Mpumalanga Heritage hereby request the Department of Sports, Arts & Culture and all involved with this matter to be transparent about the costs of this project and to bring whatever the situation is, out into the open.
Media release issued Friday 9 November 2018. Mpumalanga Heritage/Mpumalanga Historical Interest Group Reg.126- 240NPO. Contact: Marius Bakkes 082 852 7289