PE residents force anti-apartheid museum to close

2014-07-31 17:15

Port Elizabeth – Residents have forced the closure of a museum honouring anti-apartheid heroes, accusing the authorities of building "a house for dead people" while they live in squalor.

Once a tourist magnet, The Red Location Museum in New Brighton outside the southern city of Port Elizabeth houses hundreds of "memory boxes" containing the life stories of anti-apartheid activists, including former president Nelson Mandela.

The modernity of the R22m building, which won several international architectural awards, stands in total contrast to the plastic and corrugated iron structures which serve as houses for the neighbouring community.

The museum closed nine months ago in the face of threats by residents to assault visitors and efforts to reopen it have been met with violent protests.

Its website says only that it "is closed due to community protests", in what is one of the oldest townships of Port Elizabeth.

The building has now been stripped by people helping themselves to electrical wiring, water pipes, power sockets, fencing and wooden fittings for their shacks.

Like many of the poor around South Africa, the New Brighton residents feel they have not benefited enough from the end of apartheid and the rise to power of Mandela's ANC.

"We raised this issue from the beginning - in 2005 when they started building this museum," community leader Thembisile Klaas told AFP.

"Why build a house for dead people when us the living do not have a roof over our heads?

"We are living in shacks which get flooded each time it rains... and yet the municipality spends millions of rands building a museum."

Community leaders say they have demanded houses for years but have only received empty promises from the Nelson Mandela Bay Municipality.

'Getting worse'

Some security guards hired to patrol the perimeter of the building - which was also used as a research facility by historians - have abandoned their posts in fear for their lives.

"The conditions are getting worse. The fencing has been cut in several places and there is no lighting," said one guard.

"Even the covers of the drains outside have been pilfered. It is dangerous, you don't know when you will be attacked," he said.

"The building used to be very busy and we used to mingle with international tourists here but now it's a ghost."

Deputy Mayor Chippa Ngcolomba said the housing problem was being addressed but complained that the issue was being used as a "political football".

"We have put in place a number of security interventions to make sure the museum is safeguarded," Ngcolomba said.

"We are still investigating the situation so as to come up with a long-term solution."

Port Elizabeth was a hotbed of the anti-apartheid struggle where ANC leaders such as Govan Mbeki once lived.

Chris du Preez, the museum's acting assistant director, says no artefacts or documents were stolen or damaged during the looting.

The museum's “memory boxes” - 12, unmarked, rusted, room-sized containers measuring 6m by 6m and 12m tall - were inspired by the boxes migrant workers used to hold their prized possessions when separated from their families. Each offers a different vision of the struggle in South Africa.

Large portraits of apartheid activists are also on exhibit, along with photographs of migrants labouring in mines and others depicting the horrors of apartheid such as black people being whipped by police.

"We are lucky that the thieves have not yet laid their hands on important and valuable documents, files and other materials inside or on display inside museum," he said.

"They have been stealing things which form part of the building structure and not the records, files and other items kept inside," said Du Preez.

The museum won the 2006 Lubetkin Prize awarded by the Royal Institute of British Architects as the best new building outside the EU.

Its open space design and saw-tooth roofs are seen as a reference to the port city's industrial activity and strong trade union history.

City authorities could not say when the museum would re-open, while community activists said it would not happen until they had decent houses.

  • John Bass - 2014-07-31 17:24

    And who did all these residents vote for in the last election ? You get the government you deserve.

      Paige Turner - 2014-07-31 18:14

      Yes, but that can be changed with the stroke of a pen in the next municipal election.

  • WaMagoshi Tshwana - 2014-07-31 17:26

    Sad but true...lets face it

  • Martin Sharky Sember - 2014-07-31 17:28

    Good for them. How can you honor and worship a legacy that has not borne its intention by even the most longest stretch. The struggle by the poor has not ended, but in fact become even more pressing and urgent. Too much money is stolen by officials and spent on luxuries like this and things like soccer stadiums and homes for incompetent presidents. If you want a monument to the struggle heroes, uplift the poor and marginalized. An educated, successful and employed nation is a true monument. Statues and memories don't mean squat when you're cold and hungry. Good for them,. keep the damn thing closed, and do it in m ore and more.

  • Charles A. - 2014-07-31 17:34

    common sense I'd say.

      Piet Snot - 2014-07-31 19:38

      My grandafather used to say - it's not common sense - as there's not much of it around!

  • Vincent Nkomotje - 2014-07-31 17:35

    they have a good point

  • Bradly Minnaar - 2014-07-31 17:47

    Hopefully the beginning of the end for the useless anc

  • willem.louw.16 - 2014-07-31 17:48

    These people have a point. Why spend millions on museums and renaming stuff when the people live in squalor? Those are all 2ndary issues

  • SheilanDerek de Beer - 2014-07-31 17:53

    Ja Nee.... 22 m down the drain , but moenie worry nie , we will all vote ANC again , come the next elections..!!!

  • Vince Muller - 2014-07-31 17:53

    Haha... and I agree fully... and what about the name changes... did anyone ever mention how much that costs???? wonder how many houses could have been given to the poor...

  • Erleen Durrheim West - 2014-07-31 18:00

    I do not understand what the point is of destroying a building which cost millions to built and was bringing tourism and income to the region. A little like closing the gate after the bull has bolted! Why not demonstrate and make your point BEFORE the money is spent on building the museum..what does destroying it now solve??

      Malcolm Nicolson - 2014-07-31 18:25

      Destruction is a waste. I feel it has more to keep anything the white man did in the past on the boil. It is to keep racism on the boil, keep clobbering me over my head even though I have not done or committed any harm to black people.

      Siya Towna - 2015-03-25 07:54

      Unfortunately, Malcom, the issue is not about you, or particularly white people as a collective. It is however political. The government built a multi-million structure to create jobs in an underprivileged area, problem is, the local community do not possess appropriate skills to be employed in the museum. So we have a fancy to on the play ground that the local kids are not allowed to play with. Whats worse is that hawkers, who make up a large percentage of the community are not permitted to operate within the grounds. Recipe for political disaster.

  • Lindokuhle Malindoza - 2014-07-31 18:18

    I think the sooner we as people get it through our minds that we need to get of our backsides and work hard for things such as houses and better education and health, the easier our lives are going to be. This I want I want I want is going to leave you waiting for a long time.

  • Malcolm Nicolson - 2014-07-31 18:20

    The way I see it, that anti apartheid museum is there to remind locals what the ANC is about, to glorify the ANC and it's past. It is a device to keep the wounds of the past open, keeping hatred between races alive. I'm not saying we should sweep the past under the rug, but to spend a lot of money to keep it on the boil??? And that money could have been well spent on raising the standard of living that is so desperately needed. Why do these people keep looking backwards when we are trying to go forwards?

  • BLUESILVER2012 - 2014-07-31 18:37

    BURN BABY BURN...Is the African way!!! That and building Mandela statues all over the will b Zuma.

  • Phil Galpin - 2014-07-31 18:43

    The Red Location Museum was erected to give work to locals(selling trinkets to tourists)and to feed the tenderpreurs. Unfortunately all the tourists with money (Foreigners) have been warned to stay away for the last 5 years as it was too dangerous without an armed security posse.

  • Trevor Whitehead - 2014-07-31 18:44

    And so we spiral downwards....

  • Bingo - 2014-07-31 18:59

    Does everyone get a house? On what planet is a country & a handful of tax payers obligated to provide houses for as many people as mothers, unable to keep their knees together, can produce. It's insane people....

  • Jaco Loubser - 2014-07-31 19:42

    Why complain if you keep voting them into power?

  • Michael Ndalama Mwale - 2014-07-31 19:49

    I really can't blame the poor guys for their negative attitude towards the museum. The ANC likes using history to justify it's rule, hence its massive and extravagant expenditure on apartheid museums while the people languish in poverty.

      WILDSBOK - 2014-08-03 07:51

      Well said!!!

  • tess.boltar - 2014-07-31 19:51

    Today's Heroes were yesterday's terrorists. It all depends on who is in power. Too many statues and pics and idolization of Nelson Mandela. Not everyone worshiped him.

      tess.boltar - 2014-07-31 19:52

      Now watch the abuse and hate mail come pouring in.

  • linda.engelbrecht.161 - 2014-07-31 20:00

    22 million could have provided a large amount of houses for people. They could have put the names of their comrades on these houses in their memory. Pity they don't see it that way.

  • Maphoka Mokutle Beloved - 2014-07-31 20:03

    Lea nya

  • dunbabr - 2014-07-31 20:16

    Who did you vote for buddy?

  • Gary Kerwin - 2014-07-31 20:23

    A culture of when we take over, you will get free this and that has back fired. If you don't get it, create chaos.

  • Jerry Hattrick - 2014-07-31 20:37

    Im hornswoggled. People finally realising what is going on and why they are hungry and poor? Yes people of EC it is because of putting up monuments and statues and museums that cost billions

  • Andrew Honiball - 2014-07-31 21:34

    It's a good story to tell...

  • Kris Muller - 2014-07-31 22:44

    Truly funny. Nothing comes for free. How about demanding education and jobs? But I suppose it doesn't really matter-next election those residents will vote ANC again after another batch of T-shirts,food parcels and false promises are delivered.

  • Lunga Lng Smile - 2014-08-01 06:51

    Building a museum of struggle heroes who fought for the better future of their communities not individuals will rise challenges if not today in the future, as a former educational officer, tour-guider and acting curator for a so called "Community Museum" that i refer as a Museum in a Community versus museum for the community. Firstly those intelligent enough will acknowledge the trick brought by these institution as if the are for the communities is more in paper than actual doings. There are very limited programmes that deals with the challenges of the current people within areas that host these institution. In some cases they have turned to be seen as a space to boost exam marks of school, university students and books written by Professors. In PE museum the commemorated leaders fought to liberate their community and if their community feels unliberated why not allow the community to voice out and its clear that people were not happy or where not constantly engaged to inform about the future plans of museum. Consult people to be in decision making not fake AGMs as if community is involve but only selected few. Continuous report to community on why the museum is necessary.So elites from schools o university will opt for mounted exhibitions that will be gazed for many years while others will invest in building more human capacity to interpret their communities instead of the old style where 'elites' interpret work done by locals. Those local experience underpayment fo years

  • Theo Ferreira - 2014-08-01 08:04

    Lunga, Vee, what the hell did you just try to say? I am trying to comprehend but it sounds like Vee is making excuses for the incompetent EC ANC government and Lunga is reading from an EFF charter help-file..chapter 7: how to engage in dialogue and form synergies and be inclusive and mobilize the community and create capacity and and and

  • Johann Nuusman - 2014-08-01 08:06

    Once again ,, the goverment will keep 80% of the people poor and living in poverty so they can have people to sell their empty promises to during the next election . They need poor people to attend their meetings and to sell promises to.

  • Bella B Chatter - 2014-08-01 08:30

    STOP VOTING FOR THE ANC maybe then you will get things that are promised to you the rest of the voters is also suffering because idiots keeps voting for the wrong party WAKE UP!!!!!

  • John V. Lombardo - 2014-08-01 09:26

    I always fear the comments after such stories. Their were concerns from the community by residents since ground was broken. By then, shacks had been razed, then replaced with inadequate housing. It's not that they wanted free housing, they want their old homes that they were happy with and not some government homes that soon began falling apart. Whats worse, some of the old shacks were kept and maintained with folks still living inside so that touring people could see. Poverty as exhibition. And I love when white people, all of whom benefited during apartheid and even now, say they never did anything to hurt black people.

      Omnivore - 2014-08-01 11:44

      Yeah John and I love it when white Americans say they never hurt Native and African Americans yet they still benefit from that legacy of murder and slavery. Some even claim that they have never done anything to hurt Iraqis and Palestinians and all those children who toil day and night in dank factories to make their Nikes. Those hypocrites.

  • Havalarf Allday - 2014-08-01 09:27

    How sad this world is. But good for the community standing up for themselves. The ANC will not give what they have promised.

  • Lilian K - 2014-08-01 11:25

    Vee go back school please.

  • Lilian K - 2014-08-01 11:29

    John you've missed the point here..It's not about black and white or apartheid being the cause. It's about the ANC government which is failing the poor.

  • AndrĂ© Van Wyk - 2014-08-01 14:24

    How many times do we have to repeat ourselves. YOU ARE NOT GETTING HOUSES!!!! The ANC is taking you for a ride it is up to you when the ride ends. They stole all the money us taxpayers paid for your houses. No more money left. Get over yourselves and make a contribution. Eish

  • Mary Maryam Adams - 2014-08-02 21:14

    So sad it has to come to this.I have been there and it is a memory that will live on with me forever.As some people are saying.Vote DA in the future and who knows???? Here in Cape Town,places like these are valued and the people do the people of Cape Town are cared for.I mean really.PE is a beautiful place and has so much to offer,but who has used up all the money meant for the upliftment of the area as well as it's less fortunate residents.Again I say,this is sad as it really was an eyeopener to go to this Museum and the ladies that cleaned there and made the food took such pride.It was spotless.Come on something for your beautiful city and leave memories fro your children and theirs to come.

  • Marli Eisern - 2014-08-03 09:24

    This is the first step to get rid of rituals, dead people, symbols and cleansing society from the ANC and their (ANC) version of their (ANC) politician and banker lives. What have the ANC or Mandela Clan done for New Brighton, Motherwell or KwaZekele lately? Say during the last 25 years or so? This must be the start to carry all those people, rituals, symbols, concepts, understanding, interpretation to the grave and to the crematorium. Basically get rid of anything and everything that represents the present and past which means absolutely nothing to the majority of the people,and which do not contribute effectively to three pillars 1) economic growth 2) health care and 3) education.

  • Siebert Mazus - 2014-08-07 12:26

    -Some security guards hired to patrol the perimeter of the building - which was also used as a research facility by historians - have abandoned their posts in fear for their lives.- So ironic.

  • makhosi.dingiswayo - 2014-08-12 19:11

    I condemn what happenened in Red location museum.That museum holds our History as people of South Africa. Goverment should create million jobs as promised to avoid any protests that undermines our history. Amen

  • Monica Kieck - 2014-08-12 21:23

    When is the ANC going to wake up and see where they spent the funds and the destructive work that goes along with them spending funds with stuff that are being destroyed? The Municipalities do not have funds; yet you have the people that stole the funds; still being paid a salary and still; working for the Government or suspended with salary. When is this going to end?

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