Monuments

In 1811 Joseph de Maistre wrote that every nation gets the government it deserves. By extension then, it also get the heritage it merits, and as building after building in our city centres continue to fall before the demolisher’s hammer, many South Africans have been left wondering exactly what they have done to warrant the destruction of so many of their memories.

On 26 July 2018 concerned stakeholders including representatives from the Johannesburg Heritage Foundation (Kathy Munro), the Kensington Residents Association (Isabella Pingle) and the  Johannesburg East Joint Plans committee (Andre Marais) met with Eric Itzkin, Zoleka Ntobeni, Councillor Carlos Da Rocha and Cebo Mhlongo of the City. We paid a site visit to the Bez Valley War Memorial.

The passages below, taken from the City of Joburg's heritage inventory form, reveal the captivating history behind the Indian War Memorial. The three metre high sandstone memorial stands at the summit of the Observatory Ridge with majestic views over the surrounding suburbs.

 

The sculpture shows a soldier in kilt and Scottish regalia. It fits in most dramatically with its position on a rising site on the triangular ground where St Andrew’s and Ridge Road meet. Visually it is very satisfying. It may not be a great work of art, but it is certainly a fine memorial, beautifully proportioned and well executed.

 

This month it was my pleasure to visit Sappersrus. The occasion was a gathering of the tourism association of the Hartbeestpoort Dam/Magaliesberg area to meet and learn about Sappersrus and its history and attend a small memorial ceremony. We enjoyed excellent hospitality and a lunch in the well-designed lapa close to the water. I was asked to deliver a short talk on the Battle of the Somme, Delville Wood and memorialization. Our hosts were Irene Small and Ashley Williams, who run the Sappers facility and Foundation.

If you visit the High Court in Johannesburg you will notice a massive statue on the western edge along Pritchard Street. The statue commemorates the life of Captain Carl von Brandis -the 'Father of Johannesburg'. In the following article, P. J. Edginton uncovers some fascinating biographical details. The article first appeared in the old Johannesburg Historical Foundation's journal Between the Chains.

Every day thousands of people pass Sandton's first monument without realising it is there. On a small piece of land tucked away near the top of South Road lie the graves of some of the original settlers in the area and the monument erected in their honour. The Esterhuysen family owned the farm Zandfontein in the middle of the 19th century. It is on a portion of this farm that the modern skyscrapers of Sandton have emerged. Below are a few passages from various old Sandton Historical Association journals providing some background on the heritage site.

On 19 October 1986, a Tupolov Tu-134 plane travelling from Zambia to Mozambique crashed 65km from Maputo on the South African side of the border near the town of Mbuzini. The plane was carrying Samora Machel, the President of Mozambique, as well as high ranking Mozambiquan government officials and was manned by a Soviet air crew. Of the 44 passengers, 34 including the President died in the crash.

During the past few months a number of South African university campuses have seen a spate of student protests against the presence of statues honouring our colonial past. Rightly or wrongly, these have resulted in the vandalization and removal of some of these memorials.

This is one of Johannesburg’s earliest war memorials, overlooking the site of one of the largest remount camps of the Anglo-Boer War, 1899-1902. Originally a memorial to the Scottish Horse which was later disbanded, that regiment was antecedent to the famous Transvaal Scottish Regiment formed in 1902, which saw service in both World Wars. It contributes to a sense of multi-cultural heritage.

The monument honours Boer veterans of the Anglo-Boer / South African War, 1899-1902. Small plaques cover all four sides of the monument, a two metre-tall rectangular structure, spilling over onto the base. The memorial is crowded with inscriptions, set on a patchwork of small plates of different sizes and of various materials: sandstone, granite, slate, soapstone, etc. There are 41 small plaques to men who fought in the war. It stands on the crest of the ridge, on the south-eastern corner of the New Nation School, overlooking the old Gas Works. 

 

The Katyn Memorial stands on a rise in an attractive park setting, in good view from the nearby Atholl Oaklands Road. The structure is constructed of bushhammered reinforced concrete with a set of three plaques in red granite. The sculpture theme is derived from ancient Slavic forms assembled to create an interplay of open and solid spatial forms creating the image of the non-existing cross. 

 

The Petrus Molefe Monument, also known as the Umkhonto we Sizwe (MK) Monument, is located in the Petrus Molefe Eco-Park on Mtambo Street in Dhlamini Soweto. Molefe was the first operative to be killed during the early operations of MK. Thank you to the City of Johannesburg for giving us permission to publish the details below.

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