New legacy museums, centre to launch this year

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Cape Town - Ahead of the Freedom Day celebrations on Friday, the Department of Arts and Culture revealed that it would launch three new museums and a heritage centre this year to honour the memory and history of those that fought for freedom.

The museums, which form part of the legacy projects highlighted by President Jacob Zuma in his State of the Nation Address in February, include the 1980 Matola Raid Museum, phase two of a museum that retells the story of the Battle of Blood River from an African perspective, a museum at Freedom Park and the Steve Biko Heritage Centre.

The department's acting Deputy Director General of Cultural Heritage and Preservation, Vusithemba Ndima, said the museums would all be launched between July and November.

Construction of the 1980 Matola Raid Museum in Maputo is expected to be completed this week and museum staff and furniture and equipment would be put in place by July.

The museum pays homage to the 17 people that died during the raid in 1980 by the SA Defence Force on ANC houses in Matola.

Ndima said about 95% of construction of the Steve Biko Heritage Centre, which is being built in Ginsberg where he was born in 1946, had been completed.

The centre, which is to include a museum, archive and library, training rooms and cultural performance and retail spaces, is scheduled to be launched in October or November this year and will also create economic opportunities for local community members, he said.

Ndima said phase two of the Ncome Museum in KwaZulu-Natal, which aims to tell the story of the infamous Battle of Blood River - fought between Zulu and Afrikaners in 1838 - from an African perspective, is scheduled for completion by August this year.

The first phase was launched in 1998 and the second phase includes the construction of a multi-purpose hall to host conferences, a library, work room, curio shop and reconciliation bridge, among other things.

The opening of the centre, which will create economic opportunities for local people in the rural area, is planned for October or November.

Ndima said a museum being constructed as part of the final phase of Freedom Park - which will detail the stories of those who fought for freedom in South Africa - is expected to be opened in September.

The department, through the SA Heritage Resources Agency (Sahra), is also restoring the graves and homes of struggle stalwarts and national icons.

The homes to be restored by the Sahra included those of literary icons Bessie Head, Olive Schreiner and Ingrid Jonker as well as renovations on the Mahabane House - which had started in July last year.

There is also a plan to turn the house of Winnie Mandela, who was exiled to Brandfort in the Free State in 1977, into a museum and the Lejweleputswa District Municipality has finalised a business plan to develop the house.

Negotiations are underway with the current owners of the property Bram Fischer - the lawyer who represented Madiba during the Rivonia Trial in 1963 - with the idea of also restoring this home.

Those graves that have been declared as national heritage sites are those of the founding president of the SA Native National Congress, the forerunner of the ANC, John Dube, former ANC leaders Pixley ka Seme, Sefako Makgatho, Josiah Gumede, Alfred Xuma, Albert Luthuli, Oliver Tambo, PAC founder Robert Subukwe and leader of the black consciousness movement, Steve Biko.

Ndima said the graves of Luthuli and Dube were in good condition, while the Sobukwe grave had been refurbished.

However, he said the site where Luthuli died was in a poor condition and the granite needed restoration, while Gumede's grave in Pietermaritzburg also required restoration.

In Cape Town, Sahra will declare as a heritage site the Rocklands Seven monument where the UDF was launched in 1983, as well as the Gugulethu Seven monument in Gugulethu, with the latter to form part of a museum in collaboration with Fawu Gugulethu Development Committee.

The Soweto house of Lillian Ngoyi, an anti-apartheid activist and the first woman elected to the ANC's executive committee, will also be declared as a heritage site after evaluation.

Other sites which will be declared as heritage sites include the site of the 1913 revolt by women in the Free State and the 1957 anti-pass revolt by women in Zeerust.

While the sites of the Frontier Wars in the Eastern Cape will be developed as part of a liberation heritage route, Ngquza Hill - the site of the 1960 Ngquza Hill massacre where 11 Pondo tribesmen were killed by police - and the Holy Cross Church where Tambo went to school (both near Flagstaff) will be declared as heritage sites next year.

A service provider has been appointed by the department to develop a heritage centre at Ngquza Hill and construction of the centre is expected to start in October.

Ndima said the department was also busy developing the Dube Legacy Project, following a ceremony in February to mark the restoration of the Dube gravesite and the unveiling of Dube's statue at the launch of the Dube Tradeport at the King Shaka International Airport in March.

A master plan had been developed in co-operation between local, provincial and national government to develop the Dube gravesite - which includes the construction of an interpretative centre and the construction of a Tower of Hope to honour Dube.

The department is also helping to prepare the Union Buildings centenary next year.

In preparations for the centenary celebrations, the Presidential Guest House will be renamed SefakoMakgatho House - after the second president of the ANC - while Kings House in Durban will change to John Langalibalele Dube House and the Diplomatic Guest House to Johnstone Mfanafuthi Makhathini Guest House.

Johnstone Mfanafuthi Makhathini is a former anti-apartheid activist whose work contributed to the formation of the Organisation of African Unity - the forerunner of the AU.

The adverts for announcing the name changes were placed in the newspapers by the Department of Public Works on the weekend of 2 April.