Re­call­ing a painful past New plans for Egazini her­itage site

Grocott's Mail - - EGAZINI - By LIN­DANI DONYELI

In the hope of win­ning over the sur­round­ing com­mu­nity, a town­ship drama group has pro­posed con­duct­ing an edu­tain­ment pro­gramme for res­i­dents liv­ing near the Egazini Me­mo­rial Park in Fingo Vil­lage.

This comes as most of a new R300K fence to pro­tect mon­u­ments com­mem­o­rat­ing the his­toric Bat­tle of Egazini has dis­ap­peared, less than a year after it was erected. That after a pre­vi­ous fence, along with trees planted on the site, dis­ap­peared even more quickly. A sign­board in­stalled in March this year, in­tended to sig­nal the site’s sig­nif­i­cance, has al­ready dis­ap­peared.

The mu­nic­i­pal­ity has opened a case with the po­lice about the van­dal­ism and a guard for the site will be part of the re­mit for a new se­cu­rity com­pany to be ap­pointed, ac­cord­ing to doc­u­ments pre­sented at the Coun­cil’s Tourism And Cul­tural In­dus­tries Port­fo­lio meet­ing on Wed­nes­day.

The pro­posal for com­mu­nity aware­ness in­ter­ac­tive ex­er­cises was also part of that meet­ing’s agenda. The pro­gramme is to be run by the cast of the Bat­tles! Lim­fazwe tour which was staged dur­ing the Na­tional Arts Fes­ti­val.

The pared-down team of di­rec­tor Masixole Heshu, Nox Donyeli, Azele Cibi and Likhaya Jack say in their pro­posal that they aim to “ed­u­cate peo­ple of all ages who live, study or work” in the vicin­ity of the Park about its his­tory and mean­ing.

“Per­for­mance ma­te­rial from the tour will be adapted to the needs of the lo­cal com­mu­nity.” The tour was run un­der the aus­pices of Rhodes Uni­ver­sity’s Isikhum­buzo Ap­plied His­tory Unit.

The team pro­poses to use the in­ter­ac­tive ses­sions to build up to an event at the site on Her­itage Day, 24 September.

Lo­cal his­tory

Win­ning over hearts, though, will be a tough task, for many rea­sons.

The area for­merly known as Sil­ver­town was de­mol­ished in 2005, and its oc­cu­pants were re­lo­cated to RDP houses in Vukani. The Na­tional Her­itage Site was erected to com­mem­o­rate the bat­tle be­tween the Xhosa and the British, dur­ing which many Xhosa lives were lost and their bod­ies buried at the site now known as Egazini.

For­mer Sil­ver­town res­i­dents are frus­trated and dis­ap­pointed that the site they were forced to leave, far from be­ing a dig­ni­fied me­mo­rial, has been wracked by theft and van­dal­ism.

Mr Kalipa, who lived in Sil­ver­town, said, “We want some­thing that can cre­ate jobs for the com­mu­nity. The peo­ple who should guard the place must come from the com­mu­nity. I think that can stop the van­dal­ism. We feel like we are not re­spected.”

Another for­mer Sil­ver­town in­hab­i­tant, Mrs Mata, said, “It’s more than 10 years since we have left the site, but there is noth­ing pro­gres­sive for the peo­ple, be­cause the place does not func­tion for the com­mu­nity.” She also pointed out that their re­lo­ca­tion had moved the com­mu­nity fur­ther away from the CBD and the Raglan Road clinic.

Asked to com­ment on the ra­tio­nale for the site, Makana Mu­nic­i­pal­ity spokesper­son Yoliswa Ramokolo said it had been es­tab­lished for the ben­e­fit of the com­mu­nity.

The in­ten­tion was for it to at­tract tourists, who would bring money into the com­mu­nity.

There had up to now been no of­fi­cial open­ing or han­dover of the fa­cil­ity to the com­mu­nity.

Asked about the sug­ges­tion of em­ploy­ing lo­cals to guard the site, she said while the mu­nic­i­pal­ity would not di­rectly em­ploy com­mu­nity mem­bers at the site, they could ap­ply for work at the se­cu­rity com­pany pro­vid­ing that ser­vice to Makana Mu­nic­i­pal­ity.

The pal­isade fenc­ing that has all but dis­ap­peared is the sec­ond fence erected there in three years: the first was also stolen, bit by bit.

Ac­cord­ing to mu­nic­i­pal doc­u­ments, R200 000 was spent on pre­par­ing the gar­den and R300 000 was spent on pal­isade fenc­ing.

Pri­or­i­ties

His­tory re­searcher at the Al­bany Mu­seum Lind­inxiwa Mahlasela praised the ef­forts of lo­cal gov­ern­ment as well as his­to­rian Julie Wells, who is head of the IIsikhum­buzo Ap­plied His­tory Unit, to raise aware­ness of lo­cal his­tory.

“They were try­ing to re­spect the his­tory of the in­dige­nous peo­ple,” Mahlasela said. “Our his­tory is not writ­ten in books, there are no pub­lic places that have our story.

“The Mu­nic­i­pal­ity was told to fo­cus on ser­vice de­liv­ery, houses and the wa­ter cri­sis. Her­itage must be left to the arts and culture de­part­ment. Egazini was built by the mu­nic­i­pal­ity but led by his­to­ri­ans. Even now there should be peo­ple ask­ing for do­na­tions so the place can be done prop­erly. Un­for­tu­nately, there is no money.”

Asked how peo­ple could be per­suaded not to de­stroy the site, Mahlasela said, “It is not about un­der­stand­ing, in my view.

“It’s about pri­or­i­ties: hunger in our com­mu­ni­ties makes us not to care for other things, be­cause we are pre­oc­cu­pied with stom­ach pol­i­tics. Food is the ba­sic need, if there is no food you don’t care for any­thing. The things that are higher value are sold for noth­ing be­cause peo­ple are hun­gry.

“What is needed is for the De­part­ment of Arts and Culture to fin­ish the project of Egazini. But to fin­ish it is not enough: there should be peo­ple who will work there and get salaries, and those peo­ple should come from the com­mu­nity.”

A sense of place

Zan­dis­ile Sakata of Ca­cadu Dis­trict Mu­se­ums and Her­itage in the De­part­ment of Arts and Culture said, “It is im­por­tant that the peo­ple as­so­ciate them selves with the place, but it is im­por­tant to com­mu­ni­cate with the peo­ple in the com­mu­nity first.

“We can­not run away from the fact that Egazini is a Her­itage Site. It is part of the fifth Fron­tier War. As the de­part­ment, we should pro­tect the site. Peo­ple need to iden­tify and know about his­tory.

“You ask a per­son, what is her­itage? Why does it has to be con­served? Why does it need to be pro­tected and pro­moted?

“If you read his­tory books, we have less vis­i­ble her­itage than white peo­ple, be­cause our his­tory was not re­garded as worth record­ing. So our man­date is to teach peo­ple about her­itage.”

Sakata said there needed to be ed­u­ca­tional pro­grammes. For ex­am­ple, if a ward coun­cil­lor held a meet­ing, there should be an item about the site.

“Her­itage it’s not just about arts and culture, it’s about ev­ery­one.”

• Ad­di­tional re­port­ing by Sue Ma­clen­nan

Photo: Sue Ma­clen­nan

March 2017.

Photo: Lin­dani Donyeli

Au­gust 2017.

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