Mike Alfred

I appear as a man 
starting another story

I’m accelerating along the M2 West
heading for the Vaal
I’m gently swaying and clacking over 
the Fordsburg viaduct on the Trans Karroo
I’m on the R21 to OR Tambo 
for my Cape Town flight  

A migrant between the book ends of
my life; Johannesburg the library

Egoli, we grew up together, 
learned to love one another 
about you 
I waxed loquacious 
I was your scribe
delivered multiple tellings 

I thought this would be a gentle essay featuring a well-loved Cape Town heritage landmark. But between my first site visit and an interview with ‘Friends of the Mill,’ John Hammer, Devils Peak blazed, roared and leapt with a great fire. A UCT library/reading room filled with treasures, burned, structures and woodlands were consumed in spectacular fashion and the Mill and adjacent houses became forlorn, smoking ruins in the process. Now the task of Friends of the Mill is not so much about mollycoddling and preservation, as about resurrection and restoration.

In 2020 Arderne Gardens turned 175. This wonderful, 4.5 hectare arboretum in Claremont, Cape Town, is filled with trees of great girth and height, together with plants from all over the world, some over 100 years old. For many decades wedding parties have posed for photographs under the great Moreton Bay Fig with its enormous surface root system spreading in all directions like a nest of huge Boa Constrictors. This mighty tree is known throughout Cape Town as The Wedding Tree. The Gardens are a picnickers’ paradise.

Part of Kitchener Avenue, in Kensington, Johannesburg has been replaced by Albertina Sisulu Highway. Perhaps soon, Rhodes Park, Roberts Avenue and Milner Crescent will be renamed to burnish the heroes of more recent history? Significantly, Cecil John Rhodes statue on the UCT campus has been recently vandalized in a fierce show of anti- colonialism.

Five Jeppe men were prominent in the early history of the Transvaal and the Witwatersrand Gold fields. Three were brothers, two were the sons of the youngest brother.  Two played significant roles in state administration, two were entrepreneur-businessmen and one was a jurist. But by enunciating these men’s foundation careers, is to tell only part of the story, for they all pursued a myriad of interests, involvements and occupations. All appeared assuredly capable of operating in a broad professional and public arenas.

Subscribe to Mike Alfred