The panel beater shop with a multimillion-rand price tag

2011-08-13 14:26

The modest panel beaters on Fort Street, Bloemfontein, looks like any other with old cars and parts strewn everywhere.

But this one is different, it ­conducts its business in a building with a rich political history and a multimillion-rand price tag.

The old building, despite a fresh coat of paint, blends in with neighbouring ones – it’s dilapidated and dirty.

A tourist sign on the outside, which reads “Waaihoek”, hints at the significance of the old ­Wesleyan Church.

On the inside, the only sign that this was once a church is its beautiful wooden ­ceilings.

You can picture yourself folding your hands, closing your eyes and listening to a familiar hymn or the whispers of serious political ­conversations, since this is where some of the first meetings of the then South African Native ­National Congress were held, and is basically the site at which the ANC was established in 1912.

The provincial government last week invited architects to tender for renovating the church and ­other historical buildings.

And its seems an agreement has been reached on the payment impasse that had dogged the acquisition of the buildings.

According to earlier media ­reports, owner Kevin Jacobs ­wanted as much as R15 million while the provincial government said an independent property evaluator had valued the building at R3.4 million.

Jacobs has since settled and the spokesperson for Free State ­Premier Ace Magashule, William Bulwane, said the price paid to Jacobs would not be revealed.

Jacobs said there was a clause in the contract that prohibited both parties from divulging the amount.

Bulwane said this iconic building was going to be restored to its former glory, and that the Free State ­provincial government planned to declare it a national monument and turn it into a museum.

Bulwane did not say whether the ANC or the provincial government would foot the bill.

The tenders also include renovating the former house of struggle icon Bram Fischer at 72 Reitz ­Avenue in Westdene.

Government also planned to buy this property, which currently houses two small businesses.

In addition, the province wanted to acquire a room at the house of ­Thomas Mapikela, one of the founding members of the ANC.

After being forcefully removed, Mapikela built himself a red-brick, double-storey house in Batho ­location, where the ANC meetings were held.

Both these buildings have ­already been declared national monuments by the National ­Heritage Council.

Architect Marieke Botha said the cost of renovations depended on whether government wanted to renovate or restore the buildings.

She said if the plan was to restore it to its original form, a lot of ­research needed to done.

“Then it depends on how much information is available. It could cost a fortune and it would take a considerable amount of time,” she said.

But with good planning, Botha said, four months would be enough to compete the renovations in time for the ANC’s centenary celebrations in Bloemfontein on January 9 next year.

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