The Horse Memorial has always been one of my favorite monuments around Port Elizabeth. Not just for what it looks like, but more importantly for what it stands for. Port Elizabeth was the main port of entry for horses and mules used by the British forces during the Anglo Boar War (1899 – 1902). During the war more than 300 000 horses died in British service. The people of Port Elizabeth was very much aware of the plight of the horses and after the war fund were raised to put up a memorial to commemorate the horses from the war. Not to remember fallen soldiers on either side, not to celebrate apartheid as some political parties want their followers to believe and not to even commemorate the actual war. To remember the horses. The plaque on the monument says:
THE GREATNESS OF A NATION
CONSISTS NOT SO MUCH IN THE NUMBER OF ITS PEOPLE
OR THE EXTENT OF ITS TERRITORY
AS IN THE EXTENT AND JUSTICE OF ITS COMPASSION
Perhaps in South Africa we need to take this to heart more often. In this case I mean for each other, our friends and families for strangers for our animals, for our environment, for our country. But that isn’t what the post is about.
In April 2015 the Economic Freedom Fighters, Julius Malema’s EFF, decided to vandalise the memorial because of their perceived perverted idea that it celebrates something linked to the Apartheid era and pushed the soldier giving the horse water over. The monument wasn’t about the soldier but about him showing the animal compassion. Compassion these hooligans didn’t show the memory of these horses. The Nelson Mandela Bay Municipality promised that the memorial will be repaired and the soldier returned to its place. Ten months down the line and it still hasn’t happened.
I stopped at the memorial this week and felt sad. Sad for the fact that the horse looks so lonely with nobody showing him compassion. Sad that this unfortunately is also the state that our country seems to find itself in. Sad that promises made to return the soldier seems to be just that. Promises. Something we are used to in South Africa and something we are going to see a lot more of over the next few months as the local elections approach. Referring to signs that has been appearing over the beachfront lately aimed at the major and pointing to the lack of service delivery I want to say, “Hey Danny, fix the horse and bring back the soldier.”
Why do I feel so passionate about it? Not just because of what the memorial stands for but also the fact that it is one of Port Elizabeth’s most famous historical memorials. One that thousands of visitors to the city pass while on their tour of the city. One that gets photographed by these tourists. One that in the past have been used extensively to promote the city and its historical and cultural diversity and now is everything but that. One that now tells a sad tale and is effecting the city’s tourism image. I really hope the soldier will make his way back to the horse some time soon and that more unfulfilled promises isn’t just made in this regard.