The University of the Free State (UFS) decided to relocate Pres. Steyn’s stature – which is currently located on the Kovsie campus – to the War Museum in Bloemfontein as part of “a caring project” but AfriForum Youth is not buying the gesture.
AfriForum Youth says the relocation of Steyn’s statue arouses the question whether Afrikaner students are still welcome on the UFS campus. AfriForum Youth is of the opinion that such a decision can worsen cultural polarisation on the campus.
Steyn will now stand proud next to the Women’s Monument. This is also where the president himself was laid to rest.
AfriForum Youth concedes that the statue will receive “the necessary acknowledgement and respect that it deserves at its new location and is grateful for the preservation thereof, as well as that the wishes of the Steyn family were taken into consideration during the relocation process”.
But, says AfriForum, the UFS used “the excuse” that their decision to relocate the statue is motivated by an initiative by campus management to ‘create a caring culture on campus where students need to care for each other’s history and heritage’. “The reality is however that the UFS is creating a precedent with this move and is most definitely not promoting mutual recognition and respect for different cultures, but is rather removing a specifically targeted heritage,” says Ohann Fourie, AfriForum Youth’s National Coordinator for Campus Structures.
“To launch a project of caring for each other’s history and heritage by removing a group of your students’ heritage from the campus clearly contradicts the intention of such a project and arouses the question if the UFS then only cares about the heritage and history of certain students and not that of all the students,” says Fourie.
The UFS management is attempting to make it clear that they want to highlight the university’s citizenship that accompanies such a caring culture, but at the same time they are showing no insight for the alienation and exclusion that can be caused to a certain group of students when the heritage of these students is removed from campus.
“AfriForum Youth is extremely concerned that this project cares more about certain groups of students than others and can therefore cause division among students and will not teach the youth to still have respect for each other despite their differences,” concludes Fourie.