Chris Ndaliso
Senior journalist
3 minute read
16 May 2022

Confusion over Durban airport’s King Shaka statue

Chris Ndaliso

Renowned artist and sculptor, Andries Botha, is still in the dark as to what will become of his remaining art pieces at King Shaka International Airport, in Durban.

Renowned artist and sculptor, Andries Botha, is still in the dark as to what will become of his remaining art pieces at King Shaka International Airport, in Durban.

Botha was commissioned by the KwaZulu-Natal provincial government to create a statue of King Shaka kaSenzangakhona in 2010, but shortly after the unveiling of the artwork, the main piece (King Shaka) was taken down.

The artwork, which reportedly cost R3,2 million, featured the statue of King Shaka standing between two cows with his spear and shield leaning against a stone.

The main piece was taken down after the late Zulu monarch, King Goodwill Zwelithini, and other members of the royal family said they were not happy with the way King Shaka was depicted. They said the artwork depicted Shaka as a “herd boy” instead of a “warrior king”.

Last week Botha told The Witness that when the Shaka statue was taken down, he requested the government to also take down the cow sculptures that formed part of the artwork.

“I wrote a letter to [the government] at the time to request them to take down the entire artwork. Fine art is protected, you can’t just take one part down and leave another standing because that’s harming my intellectual property rights,” said Botha.

“I told [the government] that if they put another sculpture next to mine then I’ll be forced to seek legal recourse. I’m old now so they can do whatever they do but they must [not], and do not dare put another artist’s work next to those cows if they are not taking them down. The whole work has lost context and those remaining pieces do not depict my artistic impression of the original idea,” he said. 

In 2011, the office of the KwaZulu-Natal Department Arts and Culture commissioned another artist to construct a R3,5 million replacement of the sculpture.

In May 2021, The Witness reported that Arts and Culture MEC, Hlengiwe Mavimbela, said the new statue was ready and the department was in the process of appointing a service provider to construct the base of the statue.

She said it was envisaged that the statue would be unveiled on September 24 of the same year.

KwaZulu-Natal Department of Arts and Culture, spokesperson Phathisa Mfuyo, on Friday said the service provider for the plinth was appointed but there were delays in getting plans approved due to Covid-19.

“We are pleased that there is progress with the service provider currently working on the construction of the plinth and the estimated time of completion is July this year. Once this is done, we will consult with the royal house to request a date for the official unveiling,” said Mfuyo

She said she was sure the people of KwaZulu-Natal would be pleased to see the four-metre statue which was given his blessing and approved by the late King Zwelithini.

It was not yet clear what the provincial government and all other parties involved were planning to do with Botha’s three remaining art pieces or where the new sculpture would be positioned.

KZN provincial government spokesperson, Lennox Mabaso, said all issues involving the statue would be dealt with once they were fully discussed with the royal family.

“At the moment, government is preoccupied with the recovery from the floods and there is also the coronation on its way. At the right time, the government will communicate all issues related to this matter,” he said. 

“Anybody who has an issue about something, the doors are always open so people should come and engage; all facts will be presented,” said Mabaso.