Plans to turn struggle icon Winnie Madikizela-Mandela’s former home in Brandfort, Free State, into a museum is not the first or last time government has poured money into a heritage project, only for it to fall into disrepair.
Down at Cradock, in the Eastern Cape, government has so far poured an estimated R30 million to conceptualise, construct and manage the so-called Cradock Four Garden of Remembrance.
In 2007, the then deputy minister of environmental affairs and tourism Rejoice Mabudafhasi delivered a keynote address at the “official sod-turning” event on July 9.
According to a media release issued by Mava Scott, chief director of communications at the time, the department of environmental affairs and tourism had “set aside R15 million” for the project.
“In addition, the department has provided R13 million for the construction of a tourism centre, research on the history of Cradock, construction of accommodation facilities and refurbishments of
existing infrastructure at Vusubuntu Cultural Village,” the press release continued.
“Mabudafhasi concluded by stating the best way to remember and honour the Cradock Four was to ensure the viability and sustainability of the Cradock Four Garden of Remembrance as a vehicle for creating a better life for all,” Scott boasted in the statement on a government website.
The allocated R28-million expenditure, however, seemed to have resulted in nothing more than a derelict, obscure structure without any evidence of the facilities meant to be added to it.
Writing for media24 on April 7, 2015, Derrick Spies spoke of “four concrete pillars, towering up into the sky” and told readers “questions about their purpose spring to mind as the structure encroaches upon the skyline”.
“This is the first impression of the Cradock Four memorial, erected to honour Matthew Goniwe, Fort Calata, Sparrow Mkhonto and Sicelo Mhlauli, four anti-apartheid activists assassinated by the South African Secret Police during the height of apartheid in 1985,” Spies elaborated.
Among a litany of problems, the writer found the absence of directional signage to the monument, residents not knowing where the “garden of remembrance” is located, and “if you make your way on to the gravel road leading to the memorial, a broken gate greets you upon arrival”.
‘The project is to be completed in November.’
“There is no activity at the memorial at all. A vacant reception area greets you as you climb out your vehicle. It is clear that the memorial is not in use,” he warned.
He further revealed “progress beyond the reception area up to the main memorial by vehicle is impossible”, with a tarred road almost indistinguishable from the surrounding veld.
He also found “unfinished buildings with missing doors, smashed windows and missing roofs”, with weeds pushing “through the paving” and overtaking the once-landscaped gardens.
He mentioned electrical cables that had been ripped from walls and pipes sticking out of the wall “the only indication of where toilets used to be”. Light fittings were gone and “smashed beyond repair”.
The “beautiful wooden deck has slowly been removed. The only indication that the deck was ever there is a few support beams and fittings rising up out of the concrete slab”.
Despite all his misgivings, the same department (now separated from environmental affairs) confirmed it had allocated R13.8 million for phase two of the construction.
Qaqamba Magadla, writing for Dispatch Live on April 5, 2016, quoted departmental spokesperson Trevor Bloem, saying phase two would include repairs to the damaged buildings, completion of the amphitheatre and the addition of the shading furnishing in the exhibition centre.
Dispatch Live reported the department had set aside R15 million for the construction of the garden of remembrance. “The project is to be completed in November,” Magadla quoted Bloem.
The Citizen understands the deadline was missed. Calling into one of the Primedia radio stations, a local resident called this week disputed there had been any progress since the last time Media24 broke the story of the garden’s neglect.
Similar allegations of mismanagement of heritage establishments were levelled against Nelson Mandela Museum in Umtata, together with its satellite museums in Qunu and Mvezo.
Queries have been sent to department and the provincial arts and culture department to determine the current state of the project.