Groot Marico, a town in the North West Province of South Africa is the place where President Jacob Zuma was arrested during the fight against the Apartheid regime. In June 1963 Zuma was arrested with 45 Umkhonto we Sizwe recruits. The group was heading to Zambia through Botswana for military training, and they were to pass through the Zeerust/Lobatse border. The 45 activists including Zuma were however caught and served prison terms at Robben Island.

Under heavy security, President Zuma unveiled the Groot Marico Heritage and Arrest Site.  While unveiling the monument erected in his honour, Zuma said, “I am humbled and immensely honoured to have been part of such a courageous legion of then young freedom fighters. Today’s event takes me back many years, to that fateful arrest with my comrades and patriots, leading to 10 years imprisonment on Robben Island.”

The monument gulped a total of $131,000 (R1.8 million) and has come under criticism. The residents of Groot Marico believe the money could be put to better use. The opposition groups and civil society have argued that President Zuma does not deserve a monument in his honour with his contentious and tarnished legacy that he will leave behind. President Zuma has been accused of corruption and alleged involvement in state capture. However, Zuma had a defence for spending that amount of money.

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“The building and maintenance of the heritage site has a greater potential to stimulate economic activity and create much-needed jobs in the communities of Groot Marico, Bahurutshe villages, Zeerust as well as surrounding areas in this province. It will also contribute towards cultural tourism both domestically and internationally,” he said.

Throughout his tenure as president Zuma has been in the news for the wrong reasons; and he has faced rape and corruption charges. As Lěbzå Matjane a Facebook user commenting on the monument rightly asked, “How many tourists would want to commemorate this specific veteran???”

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Zuma unveiled the site, named after him (Jacob Zuma Site Capture Monument) with an obelique that has a structure of his head at the top. In a country where monuments are being pulled down and others questioned, Zuma’s obelique in his honour has been met with a lot of questions, not about his bravery and contribution as an anti-apartheid activist and fighter, but his actions as South Africa’s president.

Critics have asked whether the erection of such a monument obliterates the allegations levelled against Zuma in honour of past deeds? That seems unlikely. Monuments are representations of what a person has done, their value and what they stood for, achievements, ideologies amongst other things that later come under scrutiny with time. For President Zuma who is currently serving his last term as president, the monument would have better served as a point of reflection and reminder of how much South Africans have endured and how much more has to be done.