Historic wall toppled

2018-09-21 15:45
Ward councillor Hazel Lake stands in front of the collapsed Laager Wall. All that remains of the historic relic is two stone-built pillars.

Ward councillor Hazel Lake stands in front of the collapsed Laager Wall. All that remains of the historic relic is two stone-built pillars. (Kerushun Pillay)

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The Laager Wall in Howick, a historic site and popular tourist attraction, has been accidentally knocked down by workers building a retail outlet.

In what is another blow to the iconic Howick Falls area, the middle section of the stone wall came toppling down as workers excavated the large plot of land last week.

The wall is located on the site where the construction is taking place. The development is a retail outlet comprising shops, offices and restaurants, which will also have underground parking.

A two-storey wooden building that was previously on the site was demolished for safety reasons. The new development began this year.

uMngeni Municipality spokesperson Thando Mgaga said the municipality has informed the architect, project manager, and the project’s developer about the collapse of the wall, and also the nearby Howick Museum and Amafa KwaZulu-Natal.

“The developer will be required to make [an] application to Amafa for the rebuilding of the protected monument in terms of the KwaZulu-Natal Heritage Act ... It will be the prerogative of Amafa to determine the consequences of the activity that caused the damage.”

He said uMngeni will ensure the developer rebuilds the wall, adding that an urgent on-site meeting is to be held with all involved.

The developer, Thulani Ndlela, declined to comment.

The Laager Wall was erected in 1879 during the Battle of Isandlwana as a safety measure in case fighting extended to the Howick area. Since the battle never came to Howick, it was never needed.

Most of the wall was torn down, but a part was preserved for its historical significance.

A Howick tourism source said he wanted a written agreement that the contractors would rebuild the wall.

“I noticed last Friday that the wall was down. It was weak, and there were moments in the past when it was missing stones and needed repairs. The middle part of it [which collapsed] was weak and even had a tree fall on it earlier this year.”

The source added: “What should have happened was, before work started, each stone should have been numbered and the wall taken down. Then it could have been put back again.

“As it is, it was unsafe to allow construction to happen so close to a wall as weak as this.”

The source said it was a popular tourist attraction and school groups were taken to see the wall.

This comes as a blow to the Howick Falls area, after the closure of the Howick-Umngeni Community Tourism Organisation (Hucto), and the closure of businesses in the area due to general degradation of the area.

The area’s councillor, Hazel Lake, said: “We have a site meeting soon with Amafa and all the role-players to find a sustainable solution.”

She said: “It is a blow to the area, because history needs to be protected. We need to ensure [construction] developers have proper regard for these things. It is part of our history … and definitely has significance.”

Read more on:    pietermaritzburg

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