A heritage impact assessment for the proposed erection of a statue of Mr NR Mandela and the subsequent relocation of the statue of Genl JBM Hertzog at the Union Buildings, City of Tshwane, Gauteng Province
Archaetnos cc was requested by Koketso Growth (Pty) Ltd to conduct a cultural
heritage impact assessment (HIA) for the proposed installation of a 9m bronze statue
of former President Nelson Mandela at the Union Buildings. This is in the City of
Tshwane, Gauteng Province.
The site identified for the placement of the statue is the one where a statue of former
Prime Minister, JBM Hertzog is located. Accordingly the relocation of this statue also
had to be considered and recommendations made in this regard.
The terms of reference for the study were to:
- Assess the proposed site where the Mandela statue is to be placed.
- Determine whether this is a suitable location.
- Provided information on why or why not the site is suitable.
- Make recommendations as to the placement of the monument.
- Assess the significance of the site in terms of its historical, social, religious, aesthetic, and scientific and tourism value.
- Make recommendations on the proposed landscape master plan for the statue.
- Comment on the relocation of the statue of General JBM Hertzog.
- Recommend a suitable location for the moving of the Hertzog statue.
The National Heritage Resources Act gives protection to declared heritage sites.
It also gives protection to the following:
a. Places, buildings, structures and equipment of cultural significance
b. Places to which oral traditions are attached or which are associated
with living heritage
c. Historical settlements and townscapes
d. Landscapes and features of cultural significance
e. Geological sites of scientific or cultural importance
f. Archaeological and paleontological importance
g. Graves and burial grounds
h. Sites of significance relating to the history of slavery
i. Movable objects (e.g. archaeological, paleontological, meteorites,
geological specimens, military, ethnographic, books etc.)
Regarding Monuments and memorials (which would include statues) it states that
these have the status of ‘General protection’. Public monuments and memorials
must, without the need to publish a notice to this effect, be protected in the same
manner as places which are entered in a heritage register referred to in section 30.
This basically means that it is protected and that it is regarded as being either a
Grade II (Provincial) or a Grade III site (Local). Accordingly the Provincial Heritage
authority, in this case the PHRA-G, has jurisdiction over the statues. To complicate
matters the Union Buildings and surroundings are in the process of being declared
as a National Heritage Site. This basically means that no change can be made to it
without prior approval from SAHRA or the PHRA-G.
Three internationally accepted documents relating to the protection of cultural
resources should be taken into consideration in looking at the cultural significance of
the Union Buildings.
- The Australian ICOMOS charter for places of cultural significance, also called the Burra charter, of November 1999.
- The Venice charter of January 1996.
- The Conservation plan: a guide to the preparation of conservation plans for places of European cultural significance by James Semple Kerr of Augustus 1985.
The Burra charter is concerned with the implementation of conservation to repair
the cultural significance of a place. It includes the protection, maintenance and future
of such a place. Factors that are taken into account for this purpose are the context
of the ethical, historical, scientific and social value of a place.
Article 3 of the charter states that work on a heritage site should be done with
caution in order to take into consideration the existing material, functions,
associations and meaning of a site. It basically means that as much change as
necessary, but as little as possible should be implemented.
Article 5 states that all aspects of the cultural significance of a place should be taken
into consideration without emphasising any one to the detriment of the others. It is
this cultural significance which, according to article 6, is a determining factor for the
conservation policy of a place.
In article 25 the charter indicates that the cultural significance of a place should be
strengthened by supporting information such as photographs, drawings and material
samples (ICOMOS 1999: 4). This clause is very important as it influences the
methodology with regards to the research on places of cultural importance. It
includes the documentation of sites by all means available and as completely as
possible. It also includes the safekeeping and making available of this
documentation and material.
The Burra charter also has an important influence on the way in which the cultural
heritage is handled. Cultural significance is sometimes also referred to as heritage
significance. The National Heritage Resources Act refers to this in article 3(3).
According to this a place or object is regarded as part of the national estate when it
has cultural significance for one of the following reasons:
1. The importance thereof for the community or in the history of South Africa;
2. If it is an unusual, rare or endangered aspect of the natural or cultural heritage
of South Africa;
3. The potential thereof to reveal information that will be a contribution to the
understanding of South Africa’s natural or cultural heritage;
4. The importance thereof to reveal the most important characteristics of certain
classes of South Africa’s natural or cultural places or objects;
5. The importance thereof in having specific esthetical characteristics on which a
community or cultural group place value;
6. The importance to contain a high value of creative or technical achievements
in a specific time period;
7. The strong or special association of it with a specific community or cultural
group for social, cultural or religious reasons;
8. The strong or special association thereof with the life and work of a person, a
group or an organization of importance in the history of South Africa;
9. Places of meaning with relation to the history of slavery in South Africa (Act
25 of 1999: 15).
Clearly the Union Buildings falls within more than one of these categories. The site therefore deserves to be preserved, protected and managed on a scientifically responsible way.
The Venice charter sees historical sites as the most important living witness of the
past. The heritage is accordingly seen as the responsibility of today’s generation and
that it should be conserved in an authentic state.
The conservation plan of Kerr is closely associated with the Burra charter. It give s
an explanation of the use of the charter and the steps to be followed in implement ing
the conservation of a historical place. The process consists of two phases.
The first phase deals with establishing cultural significance. It includes the collection
of information (documents and physical), the analysis of the importance thereof, the
assessment of this importance and the stating of the said importance. Assessment
consists of the establishing of criteria for the determination of cultural significance,
whilst the stating of the cultural importance is only an explanation thereof.
The second phase consists of the conservation plan. It includes a conservation
policy and a strategy for the implementation of the conservation plan.
The Union Buildings and its gardens is in total a cultural landscape. The building
itself is on the highest terrace and gardens with features such as statues, memorials,
steps, terrace walls, fountains etc. is terraced down to a large grass lawn on the
southern side. It is on this lawn where national festivities are hosted on a regular
Even before the unification of the four South African colonies on 31 May 1910 the
growing administrative needs of the Transvaal required more government offices in
Pretoria, and one of the last measures adopted by the Transvaal colonial
government approved the erection of a very large administrative block.
The authorities decided on Meintjieskop for this purpose. Sir Herbert Baker was
authorized on 10 January 1910 to prepare plans. His vision was two great blocks
built round an amphitheatre for gatherings of national importance. The ultimate
design was in modified Renaissance style with two towers flanked by colonnades.
The corner stone was laid on 26 November 1910 by the Duke of Connaught on
behalf of King George V and the building was finished in November 1913. The
Union Buildings still serves as the seat of government, and the sandstone buildings
amid terraced gardens remain a symbol of Unity and Strength. There are various
monuments situated in the gardens of the Union Buildings. The most southern of
these are the equestrian statue of the first prime minister of South Africa, General
Louis Botha. This statue was sculpted by the famous sculpture Coert Steynberg and
was unveiled in 1946. When ascending with the stone masonry stairs the Pretoria
War Memorial designed by Gordon Leith is found. Then approximately two terraces
from the said war memorial a bronze statue of South Afr ica’s third premier General
JBM Hertzog (1977) is found. A monument to the country’s second premier General
JC Smuts is situated on the west lawn of the Union Buildings. This monument was
designed by the architect Hans Botha and consists out of a large bust by Danie de
Jager against a half moon colonnade. This monument was unveiled on 27
September 1975. Near the bottom bypass road the Delville Wood Memorial is
situated. This memorial was designed by Sir Herbert Baker and unveiled in 1929 by
Sir Percy Fitzpatrick.
It is clear that the Union Buildings is of large cultural significance. Apart from being
older than 60 years (in fact it is 100 years old), it also is a unique architectural
feature, which includes significant art works as well as important hist orical, symbolic
and architectural elements.
Apart from the importance of the Union Buildings, the different memorials and
statues placed in and around it, have cultural significance. However, it needs to be
realised that many of these were not initially part of the 1913-plan. It therefore are
later additions which does mean that its specific location may not be of such a high
cultural significance as that of the building itself.
It needs to be stated that the Union Buildings has not yet been declared a national
heritage site. The declaration thereof however is currently in the process. This
however does not take anything away from the fact that the building indeed is of
national heritage significance and should be handled as a Grade I site.
Statement of Significance
The historic value of the Union Buildings is revealed in the important role it plays in the pattern of the history of South Africa, exhibiting richness, diversity and importance in its association with events, develo pments and cultural phases that have had a significant role in the evolution of the nation. In addition to the foregoing, it also has strong and special associations with the life and work of persons, groups and organisations of importance in history whose works or activities have been significant in the context of the history of the nation.
Conceptually the Union Buildings precinct was designed as an urban acropolis on
the highest point of the city, Meintjieskop, by Sir Herbert Baker (1862 – 1946) with
construction commencing in 1910. The site dominates the Pretoria city bowl and the
surrounding hills of the urban landscape. Due to its location and scale, the site has a
high level of legibility, emphasising its stateliness and significance. The site defines a
particular set of aesthetic values and qualities giving the site landmark status
contributing to the aesthetic qualities of the cultural environs within which it is
The site, to some extent, has the potential of yielding information that will contribute
to an understanding of scientific aspects of our natural and cultural heritage. The
scientific value of the site is found in the construction technology and innovation as
well as the botanical history of the gardens and landscaping. The Union Buildings is
an example of a prototype of a new kind of public building that later became
fashionable during the first half of the 20th century in South Africa, and
It has strong and special associations with the South African community and different
cultural groups for social, cultural, political, symbolic, aesthetic and educational
The site is houses an uncommon and rare structure and part of a special urban and
political landscape. No other site captures the public imagination like the Union
Buildings. It is a window to South Africa and the highest seat of its government. The
site has both local and international significance. It is where dignitaries come to meet
the President of South Africa. It is a rare and special site in the South African
Political and social consciousness.
The vulnerability is defined by the extent of developmental pressures which could
negatively impact on the heritage value and authenticity of the site. Due to increasing
staff in the public service and limited or expensive options in the nearby CBD, there
is increasing pressure for the modernization of office space. Further to the above
criteria of significance, it should be noted that the preservation and management of
the Union Buildings has an additional criterion of value, that of economic value. The
gardens of the Union Buildings and Meintjeskop are a popular venue for leisure, and
formal and large scale events associated with the seat of Government.
The Union Buildings is of great cultural significance and that this includes the
terraces, gardens, memorials and statues. However, it is also clear that the
memorials and monuments contribute to the historic setting. This in fact means that
these are different loose elements which in total contribute to the historical
The Union Buildings itself does have an inherent historical value that is not
necessarily dependent on these other historical elements. The other elements
however have an increased heritage value, due to its setting within the gardens and
the building. This means that without the setting within the Union Buildings precinct,
these elements may have much smaller heritage significance.
It therefore means that the other historical elements may be changed as long as the
change does not influence the overall historical significance. It also means that the
individual elements, such as statues may not be moved from the si te as it will then
undoubtedly loose much of its intrinsic heritage value.
By placing a statue of Mr. Mandela in the garden, this overall significance of the
Union Buildings will undoubtedly increase. However, the placement of the statue
should be in such a way that it does not decrease the value of the building as this
clearly is the most important element. Such a change should also be done in a way
so as not to demolish an existing element of high importance.
Erection of the Mandela statue at the site where the Hertzog statue is
In principle the Mandela statue will add value and significance. Placing the statue in
this location on the central axis of the Union Buildings will also contribute to the
increase in cultural significance.
The Hertzog statue has been erected in 1977 which is a fairly recent addition to the
area. It therefore was not part of the original layout plan, but of course was added in
order to increase the cultural value of the site. As such it may be relocated.
However, the size of the Mandela statue (9m) is problematic, not only because of its
own size, but also due to the proposed placing thereof on a 1,2 m terrace which
would be lifted from the current level of the terrace on which the Hertzog statue is
currently standing. It would be an extremely large statue with a very negative visual
impact as it will undoubtedly overshadow other important heritage features. This
overshadowing will be to such an extent that important heritage features become
obsolete, and that may decrease the overall heritage significance of the site.
Although it would therefore be acceptable to place the Mandela statue on the
location of the Hertzog statue, the height thereof would definitely not be acceptable.
It therefore is necessary to redraw the plans so that the current level of this terrace is
used for the placement of the statue. It may even be placed in a sunken level within
The ideas of the initial design to create a piazza around the statue can be supported.
This however needs to be done in sympathy to the existing garden and terraced
Relocation of the Hertzog statue
As indicated above, this statue may be relocated. However, this is only allowed
since it is believed that the Mandela statue will increase the heritage significance of
the Union Buildings. Accordingly the Hertzog statue should be moved in such a way
that it loses minimal heritage significance, if any and that it still contributes to the
general significance of the site.
Since the Hertzog statue was placed on the central axis, whereby it received an
important position within the area, it should be relocated to another area on this axis
in order not to lose that prominence. Placing it on any other axis will therefore not
enhance the heritage significance of the site as a whole.
Looking at the size of the statue, it will fit perfectly into terrace no. 3 and it would still
remain on the important central axis which would keep the integrity of this statue
intact. The area will however need to be redesigned in order to be able to create a
solid and strong basis for the statue. The slate currently forming the terrace floor
should then be re-used around the statue.
1. That the statue of Mr Nelson Mandela be erected on the terrace where the
statue of General JBM Hertzog currently is.
2. That the statue of General JBM Hertzog be relocated to the lower terrace as
3. That the area surrounding the Mandela statue be redesigned in such a way
that the statue is not elevated to a higher position as the current ground level
as it will then have an extremely negative visual impact.
4. That such designs be sympathetic to the Union Buildings, have only a light
impact on the current features and be approved by SAHRA and the PHRA -G.
5. That the area surrounding the Hertzog statue (new position) be redesigned in
order to accommodate the statue.
6. That such designs be approved by SAHRA and the PHRA-G.
7. That a process of public participation be engaged into, before any work on site
is being done.
8. That additional information on both statues is included in the designs in order
to create a more informative tourist experience.
Dr. A.C. van Vollenhoven (L.AKAD.SA.) Accredited member of ASAPA Professional member of SASCH & Leonie Marais-Botes Heritage Practitioner Professional member of SASCH