Museum of tramps, trash

Posted On Wednesday, 19 April 2006 02:00 Published by eProp Commercial Property News
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'It is a disgrace. We really don't know what is happening because no official has come to tell the community'

Nelson MandelaThe development of the R2-million Mandela Museum in Alexandra, north of Joburg, has ground to a halt.

Instead of the arts and crafts, restaurant and computer centre that were meant to occupy the building, its current tenants are vagrants and drug users.

The museum was supposed to have been completed by September 2004 - after building started in early 2003 - and was one of the jewels of the much-touted Alexandra Renewal Project.

It is situated in Hofmeyer Street opposite a house that former President Nelson Mandela lived in for three years in the '40s, when he first arrived in Joburg.

The landmark project was to house a museum celebrating Mandela's life and the history of Alexandra.

But when Metro visited the building this week its condition was appalling.

Its many rooms were occupied by homeless people. Used condoms, drug paraphernalia and empty liquor bottles lay strewn about.

The grassy area surrounding the building has become a dumping ground for Alexandra's residents.

Tour guide Mack Motokolo said that the museum building had become a "hideout" for criminals in the area.

"It is a disgrace. We really don't know what is happening because no official has come to tell the community what is going on."

Mongezi Mnyani, a spokesman for the provincial housing department, which has now taken over control of the project, said the architect responsible had died and this had delayed completion of the museum.

He said: "This was the main problem, but the matter has now been resolved and construction work is scheduled to resume in six weeks."

The museum was initially spearheaded and managed by the Alexandra Renewal Project and funded by the housing department.

Jo-Ann Duggan, the project manager for the South African Heritage Agency, which has been involved in the project since its inception, admitted that there had been "ongoing problems".

"But everything has been resolved. It is going to be a beautiful place when completed. We are happy that everything is now on track."

Xoliswa Mkhalali of the Alexandra Renewal Project declined to comment.

Resident David Nkomo said the lack of progress with the Mandela Museum was disappointing as the project had the potential to create jobs and boost tourism in the area.

"Many prominent politicians, such as the late Alfred Nzo, [first lady] Zanele Mbeki, [poet and activist] Wally Serote and [Orlando Pirates boss] Irvin Khoza are from Alex, and this information needs to be documented.

"This museum was going to be a fitting honour to these people and Mr Mandela himself," Nkomo said.

But while Nkomo lauded the housing department for pledging to complete the museum, he urged them to investigate the circumstances behind the project's delay.

Connie Motshumi, chief communications officer at the Mandela Foundation, said: "Alexandra is very important to Nelson Mandela. The museum will teach our kids about Mandela's legacy and Alexandra township."

He said he hoped the project would be back on track soon.

Last modified on Thursday, 22 May 2014 19:14

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