Kouga Municipality’s Executive Mayor, Booi Koerat said Kouga Council condemns with the contempt it deserves the despicable action by those who vandalised the Sarah Baartman burial site at Hankey in the Eastern Cape this weekend.
“This abominable act has left a deep sense of shock and disappointment in our hearts,” Koerat said.
Addressing fellow councillors, the leadership of the Khoi and the San people, District municipality officials, interested parties, members of the public and the media, Koerat said: “On 25 April some thugs who have no regard for the history of our land, the significance of our symbols and the unity of our people, poured paint over and defaced the plaque and the actual burial site of Sarah Baartman.”
Koerat said ward councillor, Clr Xolisile Persent, laid a charge of destruction of public property with the South African Police Services. “We will work hand-in-hand with the law enforcement agencies and we appeal to the community to help in ensuring that the perpetrators are brought to book.
“We cannot allow for Sarah Baartman to be humiliated once more, after all the pain and suffering she endured while she lived,” Koerat continued. “We will defend the symbols honouring her and all our heroes. We need to embark, as society, on an educational programme about our history and the symbols that define it.”
Koerat also said that today is Freedom Day, a commemoration of the day that signalled the fall of the oppressive system if apartheid and a dawn of a new democracy where all citizens would enjoy equal rights. “It was a dawn of an era where all racial, cultural and religious groups could be proud of who they were without the fear of being looked down upon.
“It was a beginning of an age where those who left their homes with heavy hearts due to the prevailing conditions of the time, and those who had been ashamed to be associated with the country of their birth could reclaim their heritage and proudly voice out ‘I am a South African’. It was a dawn of a time where someone like Sarah Baartman could have her citizenship affirmed, her dignity restored and an honour bestowed on her by the peoples of her native land.”
Koerat pointed out that Sarah Baartman is a source of inspiration as she symbolises restoration of human dignity. “People of our country, particularly the Khoi and the San, reacted with jubilation when her remains were repatriated to the land of her birth in 2002, after years of the most humiliating and cruel treatment, even after her death, far away in foreign lands.
“We, the people of Kouga, are proud to be hosts of her final resting place and to be counted in the agenda of national reconciliation, our country’s reconstruction and the restoration of human dignity. “We will work with all stakeholders, including the leadership of the Khoi and the San, the South African Heritage Resources Agency and the Department of Arts and Culture to ensure that we rehabilitate the burial site. We need guidance from all stakeholders as this is a heritage site and a sensitive place.”
Koerat also said the municipality was proud that the District Municipality was recently renamed Sarah Baartman District Municipality. He pointed out that the government is currently constructing the Sarah Baartman Centre of Remembrance, across the road from her burial site, which will help educate our communities and generations to come about our heritage.
“Nothing these criminals or anyone does can erase the name of this global icon of ours,” Koerat added.