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Friday, April 21, 2017 - 10:40

In September 2016, the Heritage Monitoring Project ran a campaign to draw attention to endangered heritage sites across South Africa. The result was a top ten list as well a long list that could be tracked over time. We recently put out a call for updates and have updated the relevant tracking threads hosted on The Heritage Portal (click here to view). Below is a quick overview of how a few sites are looking half a year on from the campaign.

Western Cape

There has been a lot of positive action in the Province. The Swellendam Heritage Association has reported that officials from Heritage Western Cape have shown keen interest in the Sugar Bridge (click here to view thread). A number of meetings and site visits have occurred in recent months and it appears as though there is all round commitment for restoration. This is certainly a step in the right direction.


The Sugar Bridge (Marcus Holmes)


The Hout Bay and Llandudno Heritage Association has revealed that the exposure for East Fort (click here to view thread) led to a meeting with the Western Cape Minister of Cultural Affairs and Sport. The Minister asked the CEO of Heritage Western Cape to continue the conversation and a solid meeting was held in November 2016 where the issues and opportunites facing the site were discussed (the Association is still wating for feedback from this meeting).

The Association has also reported that a prominent architect has been appointed by the Table Mountain National Park 'to investigate the “stabilisation” of East Fort and the potential of the World War II Apostle Battery 3 x 9.2” gun battery'.


East Fort (Dave Cowley)  


Cape Town's tallest residential building is planned for the site next to the Mechau Street Chimney (click here to view thread).  It appears as though the protection of the Chimney during the construction phase will feature prominently in the city's comments on the development which is great to hear.


Archive photo of the Chimney


One site in the Western Cape where things aren't looking so good is Seweweekspoort (click here to view thread). Huge trucks continue to use the pass while travelling to and from a sand mine. The authorities argue they have no power to stop the practice. Geoffrey Grundlingh has spoken passionately about the current situation:

The farmowner and contractor are raking in huge sums of money while every single other road user pays the price in various ways - approx 4x the punctures, dangerous encounters, reduced speed on badly maintained roads - poorly maintained only because the trucks call for far more frequent maintenance - something central Karoo and Eden municipalities clearly do not have the extra budget for. So we all suffer. We have for the most part, failed to preserve the Poort. 


An example of one the trucks travelling through the historic Poort (Geoffrey Grundlingh)



The response in Gauteng showed promise initially but faded fast. The Heritage Monitoring Project team was hopeful when it received an email from the Chief Director of Corporate Services for the Department of Sport, Arts, Culture and Recreation. The Chief Director suggested a meeting to 'discuss matters of common interest in preserving and promoting the provincial heritage'. We suggested that the meeting take place in November 2016 and are still waiting for a reply.

The overall picture in the Province is depressing with little to report on multiple sites.

It appears as though the new administration in Johannesburg is aware of the crisis in Pageview but we have not heard of any major action steps in the area yet (click here to view thread). According to local activists, the biggest challenge facing the suburb is the delay in finalising land claims. We have written to the Commission on Restitution of Land Rights and will update the thread once a response has been received. It has also come to our attention that the City of Johannesburg has taken legal action against a property owner who has made illegal alterations to a stand immediately adjacent to the historic Fietas Museum (Memory in Action) – a declared heritage site.


Fietas Museum (The Heritage Portal)


The situation on the ground for the Mining Compounds in Cullinan has not changed (click here to view thread) and we have not had any updates on Westfort Village (click here to view thread). We were delighted to hear that a University of Pretoria student received a major award for her thesis on the latter. The Jameson Raid memorials continue to deteriorate and there is very little left of the original Wilhemi Stables in Sandton. We contacted the Johannesburg Heritage Foundation which had no updates on several high profile sites around the city including the Rissik Street Post Office, the Marshall Street Barracks, the Three Castles Building, the CNA Building, Shakespeare House, New Kempsey Building and Old Park Station.


Westfort Leprosy Hospital Buidling (Nicholas Clarke)


There does appear to be some movement on Horwoods Farmhouse in Edenvale (click here to view thread). A multidisciplinary professional team was commissioned to conduct a 'Building Conditional Assessment and land use assessment proposal'. Hopefully this will be a catalyst for adapive reuse.

Another site where there is some optimism is the Johannesburg Art Gallery (click here to view thread). JAG had to close its doors earlier this year for emergency repairs but the response since then has been impressive. Not only will the Gallery reopen in May but a request for quotations has been issued for a conservation architect to do a full audit of the building.


Entrance to the Johannesburg Art Gallery (The Heritage Portal)



The Rimers Creek saga continues in Barberton (click here to view thread). The appeals process initiated by the local community has become tied up in the courts. Heritage groups were hopeful that the situation was improving when building work came to a halt in October 2016 but unfortunately work has started up again recently. There is nothing to report on the situation in Pilgrims Rest at present but it is important to note that Mpumalanga Heritage continues to keep a close watch on the historic town. The organisation is also keeping an eye on the depressing situation in Botshabelo (click here to view thread).


Old shot of Rimers Creek


Other Provinces

We received a detailed updated from Sustaining the Wild Coast regarding the threatened pre “Betterment” amaMpondo Cultural Community Landscapes (click here to view thread). Below are a few excerpts:

There has not been much change to the situation along the Wild Coast. Sanral is still proceeding with the construction of the controversial 'Greenfields' section of the N2 along the Wild Coast, and has apparently commenced with initial constructions before the court case has been heard to decide on the validity of the environmental authorisation (in the review proceedings). Sanral appears to be simultaneously doing all in its power to delay the finalisation of the review proceedings. It has also commenced construction without mapping graves, or other sites of cultural significance. This has meant lawyers now have to prepare and interdict to stop the construction.

In terms of mining, MRC has launched defamation actions/ SLAPP suits against people who speak to the press about the intimidation and other harassments of local anti-mining activists - although authorisation of the mining licence has been put on temporary hold.

The nomination of Wild Coast as an endangered heritage site also got an extreme reaction from SANRAL in the form of a backlash press report (click here to view). Our feeling about this response is that it suggests that the nomination did indeed expose the fact that they have not adequately dealt with the issues raised. But instead of taking steps to deal with the relevant issues, they choose to attack the messenger.


Sigidi Village (Valerie Payn)


Moving to Canteen Kopje just outside Barkly West (click here to view thread), David Morris sent us a review of the current situation:

Legal: Canteen Kopje is subject to an on-going Review Application through the Pretoria High Court in which the process by which a mining permit was issued, and mining commenced on the site, is being reviewed. Pressure continues to be exerted to mine the site but is held in check by the interdict and current review process.

Management and Display Refurbishment: We are attempting to raise funds to replace the fence that was stolen - in order to secure the boundary of the site. We were shortlisted (one of two finalists) but regrettably have failed to win the grant. So we'll be looking for other avenues to raise about R350 000.00 to secure the site. In August 2016 the McGregor Museum, with sponsorship from De Beers Geology, replaced vandalised site display panels with refurbished and updated displays.

Research: Excavations continued by way of SAHRA permit which continued to enhance the understanding of the significance of the site.

Only a few sites have been covered here. Click here to view all tracking threads.

Final Thoughts

One of the key goals of the Heritage Monitoring Project is to see as many sites removed from the endangered list as possible. This is a slow process and we are realistic enough to know that some sites will be lost forever. Overall, we have been humbled by the response to the 'Top Ten' campaign and the establishment of the long list. The campaign was covered extensively in the local and national press and played a role in getting many forgotten sites back on the agenda. We are particularly pleased with the response from stakeholders in the Western Cape and saddened by the general silence in many other provinces.

Thank you to all the individuals and organisations that continue to fight to preserve South Africa's heritage. The Heritage Monitoring Project relies on those on the ground for updates and feedback. Only a small portion of endangered sites around the country have been nominated thus far. Please get in touch if you have a site to add to the list  (email - jamesball01@gmail.com).


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