Paul Kruger to get new neighbours at Pretoria's Church Square

Pretoria – Pretoria’s historical Church Square will be turned into a "monument for freedom of speech" – and Paul Kruger’s statue is staying.

Tshwane Mayor Solly Msimanga said in his budget speech on Thursday that the project, Lalela (the isiZulu word for "listen"), will be the first of its kind and will hopefully contribute to a more inclusive community.

The former ANC-controlled mayoral committee had approved the Lalela project four years ago, but nothing came of it, Netwerk24 reported.

There has been a heated debate in Pretoria over the past few years about whether Kruger’s statue should remain on Church Square or be moved. The statue was fenced off two years ago to protect it from vandals.

The new DA-controlled administration, which took over the reins from the ANC in August last year, believes Church Square needs "a new layer of heritage" where all its residents would feel at home.

'Colourful side of freedom of speech'

The legacy and work of struggle icons will also be preserved at Church Square and the neighbouring Palace of Justice, along with the familiar monument to Kruger and his citizen-soldiers which are synonymous with the square, as part of the Lalela freedom of speech monument.

A rock from Robben Island, where political prisoners sentenced to forced labour were sent during apartheid, will be among the exhibitions.

Tshwane hopes it will attract members of the public, visitors and investors to the vicinity of Church Square.

"We hope it will become a place where the colourful side of freedom of speech can be enjoyed and where it can contribute to public discourse in South Africa," said Msimanga.

There will be daily entertainment at the square which will hopefully attract tourists and locals, as well as contribute to the renewal of the city centre.

Artists will be able to perform free of charge throughout the day.

There are also plans for an open air theatre where artists’ performances can be broadcast worldwide through the Internet, or on television.

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