Verwoerd still adorns Vaal town

Themba Molefe and Cecil Motsepe

Themba Molefe and Cecil Motsepe

Hendrik Verwoerd, the architect of apartheid, overlooks the conservative town of Meyerton in the Vaal region.

The life-size statue of the man who reduced black people to being "fetchers of water and hewers of wood" still adorns the main park in the town centre.

This, 14 years after apartheid and all its trappings was dismantled. Verwoerd's granite face smiles at passers-by and visitors in the park and his image seems not to raise any eyebrows in the town.

About five years ago the Meyerton municipality promised to remove the offensive statue in line with national policy regarding apartheid symbols in public places, including offices, the legislatures and Parliament.

But it appears that the only thing removed was not the statue itself but the plaque and epithet.

In September 1994, Mosiuoa Lekota, while premier of Free State, caused a stir when he ordered the removal of a Verwoerd bust at the legislature entrance in Bloemfontein.

It took several hours to pull the statue from its perch, but in the end, the six-metre version of Verwoerd was no longer standing with his hands on his hips as if inspecting his subjects, but was flat on his back with black people dancing on his chest.

Is Hendrik Verwoerd still a hero in Meyerton, with black people there reluctant to rock the boat?