Red Location Museum thrown a lifeline

PICKING UP THE PIECES: Discussing the way forward and surveying the damage done to the Red Location Museum by vandals are, from left, development committee chair Vuyo Nyambayo, human settlements political head Andile Mfunda and Ward 15 councillor Celia Mtati
PICKING UP THE PIECES: Discussing the way forward and surveying the damage done to the Red Location Museum by vandals are, from left, development committee chair Vuyo Nyambayo, human settlements political head Andile Mfunda and Ward 15 councillor Celia Mtati
Image: WERNER HILLS

Is there hope for new Brighton’s Red Location Museum?

The museum, built to honour anti-apartheid heroes and reflecting a vibrant history and the people who shaped it, has been closed since October 2013 due to protests over housing problems in nearby streets.

Seven years later, a tentative agreement has been reached between the municipality and community members that could pave the way for it  to be reopened.  

At a meeting held at the museum on Tuesday, human settlements political head Andile Mfunda said: “We are getting pressure from the minister of arts and culture, Nkosinathi Mthethwa, to reopen the museum along with the community.

“The issues were housing [particularly in]  block 40 [where the municipality and human settlements] was dealing with the rectification of houses.

“We want to move quickly to resolve issues of security [and] cleaning of the environment.

“Infrastructure and electricity officials were patrolling in the ward to check lights because the community says it’s dark in their area and they checked the blocking drainage systems.”

WHAT A DISGRACE: A file photograph of damage done by vandals at the Red Location Museum
WHAT A DISGRACE: A file photograph of damage done by vandals at the Red Location Museum
Image: WERNER HILLS

Six months before its forced closure because of community protests over housing in the area, 71,000 people had visited the tourism magnet.

However, the museum, which has won countless awards for its design, has since fallen into disrepair and has been plagued by vandalism and theft.

The issue over housing goes back to the opening of the museum, when residents felt aggrieved at their own living conditions.

They felt that by ploughing millions of rand into a tourist attraction in the midst of devastating poverty, the government was being insensitive to their needs.

Though some houses were built, they were not nearly enough.

And then came an even bigger bone of contention — the houses built by the government in the area years before began to crumble.

But by then, the state had reduced its standard size for an RDP house from 48m² to 40m².

On Tuesday, Mfunda and human settlements provincial chief construction project manager Lukhanyo Sitshongaye said some of the problems had been ironed out.

Sitshongaye said 99 houses in the area had been built to the new 40m² specification, but other residents had refused to accept the smaller homes.

Now, he said, the homes would have to be rectified rather than demolished as they could not by law be rebuilt at the 48m² of the past.

“The challenge with arts and culture was that money had been invested in the museum and it was being vandalised.

“We have to satisfy both sides,” Sitshongaye said.

To do that, he said, engineers would be brought in to rectify the affected houses instead of demolishing them and rebuilding.

“But the problem with old houses is that when you fix one side, the other is negatively affected,” he said, adding that he was optimistic, however, that the engineers would come up with a feasible plan to fix the structures.

Ward 15 committee member in charge of safety and security Barbara Mkhalali said the community was pleased with the latest developments but that community members wanted to be employed as security guards at the museum.

She said she had noted that people were selling scrap metal stolen from the museum.

“We ask that community members be employed by the municipality as security guards because we know these children that commit these crimes and we know where they live,” she said.

She said she believed the municipal security guards were afraid of the youngsters vandalising the museum.

Development committee member Vuyo Nyambayo, of block 40, said he had been one of the residents who had not wanted his home rebuilt because it would be smaller.

On Tuesday, Nyambayo said he was glad the decision had been taken to fix the homes rather than rebuild them.

He said that when community members had forced the closure of the museum, they had not wanted it to be vandalised.

He said the community remembered how it was in its heyday and was particularly proud of its electronic library.

Once a top tourist attraction, the Red Location Museum continues its downward slide into further decay.

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