The Ahmed Kathrada Foundation condemns the theft of a statue of passive resister and child martyr,Valliamma Mudliar .
Situated at Lenasia’s Rose Park, the site where the bust is located has been vandalised for a third time since its installation by the Tamil Federation of Gauteng in 2014. While the bust was previously partially damaged, and had paint thrown on it, this time, the entire sculpture was removed.
The Foundation’s Executive Director, Neeshan Balton, said that it is concerning that a site commemorating the life of a young anti-colonial activist could be vandalised for the third time.
“It is sad those who have done this despicable deed don’t seem to understand and value the contribution of Valliama Mudliar. She was amongst the passive resisters of the early 1900s who had protested against racialised laws. These laws, imposed by the colonial authorities at the time, would not recognise traditional marriages, and limited the freedom of movement of Indian people who had settled in South Africa. Valliamma, her mother and a group of other women walked from Johannesburg to Northern Natal without permits, defying the government. Along the way, they rallied support from workers and communities against laws which discriminated against them.”
Balton explained that these passive resisters would lay the basis for similar, intensified campaigns in the 1940s, and later, non-racial struggle against apartheid laws.
“Valliamma fell seriously ill after she was arrested and jailed in Pietermaritzburg for her actions. She died a few days after her release. She was just 16-years-old at the time,” he said.
“A few days ago, we marked the 158th anniversary of the arrival of indentured Indian laborers to South African shores. The slave-like conditions under which they worked, the racist policies that they, together with all other black South Africans endured, and the struggle of the generations that succeeded them should not be forgotten. One way to remember, is through the installation of sites like the one in Lenasia, which commemorate the legacies of struggle heroes. These should be sites where people are educated about history and its relevance today. It’s just a pity that some have chosen to ignore the important symbolism of such sites and have instead resorted to vandalism.”
Nad Pillay, who was head of the TFG when the statue was installed, said that the bust was made of plaster of Paris, making it valueless if it was indeed stolen for the purpose of reselling. He added that there was clearly a “lack of understanding” about what the child martyr had stood for. Pillay urged anyone with any possible leads about the vandalism to contact him on 082 659 2446.