King Shaka Airport statues still up in the air

Will the cattle ever be put out to pasture? What has become of the old king? And when will the new one be completed?

The questions concern the King Shaka statue, partially removed from the Durban airport named in the monarch’s honour. And the official answers are: we don’t know; we don’t know; and March next year, according to newspaper reports.

Five years after the likeness of Shaka component was removed from the original R3.2 million statue, progress is being made with the new statue, at a cost of a further R3.2m, and it is expected to be completed next March.

The old Shaka was removed because – it was claimed – it depicted him as a herd boy.

Provincial government head of communications, Thami Ngwenya, said consultations with King Goodwill Zwelithini, and the size of the current statue, had caused delays to the project.

The original statue, the work of renowned sculpture Andries Botha, was rejected by the Zulu royal household because, according to some, it did not resemble the warrior king.

When it was taken down in 2010, a task team, including historians, was appointed by the premier’s office to look into the history of King Shaka, and in 2011 artist Peter Hall was commissioned to make a new statue, starting in 2012.


Since the “dismembering” of the old artwork, Botha has been calling for the removal of the remaining bull, cow and two calves that complete the sculpture.

He said his appeals had fallen on deaf ears, but that he was not prepared to seek legal recourse for what he called the “harming” of his intellectual property rights.

“My problem is that we consulted before embarking on the project, and all the parties involved agreed on the statue.”

“Now I don’t want to be part of a debate concerning this work because a myriad issues, from culture, race and history, come into play. It is for that reason that I have been making these appeals for them to at least remove the remaining pieces and store them somewhere else, but no one seems to acknowledge my plea, including a letter I wrote to Airports Company South Africa (Acsa) about a year ago making the appeal. Our constitution is very particular about property rights,” said Botha.

Acsa spokesman, Colin Naidoo, denied receiving a letter from Botha.

“The statue that was removed is not even in our safe keeping, it was taken away. Acsa would like to have a King Shaka statue, but what it looks like, who does the art work and design… all that rests with the premier and the Zulu royal household,” said Naidoo.

Ngwenya said the new five metre high statue was now at the foundry.

“The project is under way. The consultations were to make sure that the new statue had all or most of the required features to resemble the late King Shaka. We estimate that it will be completed by March next year,” he said.

Asked about the old statue and the cows at the airport, Ngwenya said he was not sure what would become of the statue or the cows.