Fikile Mbalula, the secretary-general of the African National Congress (ANC), has criticized the amount of money being spent on statues of Nelson Mandela rather than on service delivery. He stated that Mandela would be turning in his grave if he knew about this.
Recent Unveiling of Mandela Statues
Mbalula’s comments come a week after President Cyril Ramaphosa unveiled two Mandela statues in Mthatha for International Mandela Day, an annual celebration of Mandela’s birthday. The statues cost R3m to design, develop, and install.
The project was spearheaded by the Nelson Mandela Museum in partnership with the department of sport, recreation, arts and culture, OR Tambo District municipality, and King Sabata Dalindyebo local municipality. However, the erection of the statues amid poverty and underdevelopment was met with criticism from some quarters.
Prioritizing Service Delivery Over Statues
Mbalula called it “embarrassing and wrong” for impoverished municipalities to prioritize statues over service delivery. He questioned why so much money was being spent on expensive statues when people needed services.
Mbalula made these comments while addressing journalists on the sidelines of the ANC’s local government interventions workshop in Joburg. He stated that it seemed that when municipal councils run out of ideas, they produce a statue.
He also pointed out that the ANC had to be called out on social media and by its critics for prioritizing statues over service delivery. Instead of spending money on statues, municipalities could celebrate Mandela’s legacy by providing his book Long Walk to Freedom in municipal libraries and museums.
Honoring Mandela’s Legacy
Mbalula emphasized that while the ANC has honored and will continue to honor Mandela, it is wrong to misuse his name and spend millions of rand on statues. He believes that Mandela himself would be turning in his grave if he knew about this.
Mbalula also stated that the workshop was not held to identify service delivery bottlenecks, but to address problems already identified by the auditor-general and through the party’s own research. He explained that they know where the problems are and are working on solutions with a specific time frame.