Heritage site in derelict state despite R10 million upgrade

2013-06-10 09:25

One of Johannesburg’s heritage sites, the Drill Hall, is in a derelict state despite getting a R10 million upgrade in 2004.

The Drill Hall was the venue of the 1956 preliminary hearings of the treason trial in which former president Nelson Mandela and Walter Sisulu were among the 156 accused.

The historic site is now a home for struggling artists.

In May, unpaid debt led to power cuts, but electricity was restored after discussions with City Power, The Times reported today.

The SA National Defence Force vacated the premises in the 1990s, and more than 350 homeless families moved in.

After a series of fires, which nearly destroyed the building, it was refurbished in 2004 by the City of Johannesburg.

The R10 million makeover was said to have been intended to promote art, culture, and social upliftment, according to the newspaper.

The new Drill Hall was to provide skills training and childcare facilities, and be a platform for emerging artists.

The Times said it recently visited the building, which revealed a different state of affairs.

The entrance was draped in coloured plastic as part of an art exhibition, but the main courtyard, once the hall in which the treason trial hearings were held, was in disarray.

Five-metre-high concrete pillars, which bore aluminium plaques on which the names of the treason trialists were inscribed, had mostly been destroyed.

Fewer than 20 remained intact, but the pillars bearing the names of Mandela and Sisulu were not among them.

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