The bitter row between the family of African National Congress founding member Sol Plaatje and the Northern Cape provincial government has led to the unveiling of his statue being cancelled on Heritage Day yesterday.
The statue which the provincial government commissioned was to be unveiled yesterday on the corner of Long Street and Bultfontein Road in Kimberley. The statue was built in honour of the stalwart's struggle for freedom and enlightenment.
Plaatje, a formidable character and leader whose opinion dominated political discourse of the time, was instrumental in the formation of the ANC in 1912.
The family says although they welcome the act [the statue] in principle, they have decided to distance themselves from it.
"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 location of the statue is also a bone of contention, as it is at one of Kimberley's busiest intersections, where there are not enough parking spaces for visitors. The family would prefer the statue to be placed in the Oppenheimer Gardens.
"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."
The Northern Cape Provincial Government yesterday confirmed the unveiling had been cancelled.