Lion of the East to be honoured

STRUGGLE HERO: Gert Sibande. © Unknown.
STRUGGLE HERO: Gert Sibande. © Unknown.

Alfred Moselakgomo

Alfred Moselakgomo

Plans to celebrate and honour the life of one of South Africa's liberation struggle heroes, Gert Sibande, are well under way and gaining public momentum.

The Mpumalanga provincial government has announced that it will unveil a king-size bronze statue of the late Sibande as part of its heritage month celebrations next month.

The design and construction of the statue is expected to cost R2,7million and an additional R2,9million for the surrounding precinct where it will stand.

Gert Sibande, also referred to as the "Lion of the East", was instrumental in exposing the atrocities of the apartheid prison system in the mid 1950s.

Many black prisoners were condemned to working as slaves on the potato farms in Bethal.

Sibande, who led one of the biggest ANC branches at the time, exposed this practice through Drum magazine and led an international campaign to boycott potatoes that were produced from the toil of slavery.

"This project forms part of the campaigns by the provincial government to celebrate the lives of its heroes and preserve their history and heritage," said government spokesman Ntime Skosana.

The provincial government recently commissioned playwright Mbongeni Ngema to develop a musical play to reflect the life and times of Gert Sibande, to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the potato boycott.

A booklet highlighting Sibande's role in the struggle to liberate South Africa will also be compiled.