R21m budgeted for closed facility

‘Tourist magnet’ shut for 19 months still has huge cost to city

IN TATTERS: The outside of Red Location Museum - dirty, dilapidated and rundown
IN TATTERS: The outside of Red Location Museum – dirty, dilapidated and rundown

THE Red Location Museum in New Brighton has not seen a single tourist in almost two years, but still costs Nelson Mandela Bay Municipality more than R300 000 a month.

And there is no end in sight for Port Elizabeth’s so-called tourist magnet, as residents refuse to let the museum operate normally due to housing issues.

Despite being shut for 19 months, the municipality plans to spend an additional R21-million on the facility in this financial year.

The award-winning museum houses hundreds of memory boxes containing the life stories of anti-apartheid activists.

Looters have ravaged it, stealing wiring, power sockets, fencing, air-conditioners and palisade fencing.

The R22-million facility opened its doors in 2006.

Nelson Mandela Bay municipal spokesman Mthubanzi Mniki said the budget had already been approved by the city council.

“We have to budget for the Red Location Museum because residents might just decide to open it tomorrow for instance, then it would be a problem if there is no budget,” Mniki said. The R21-million includes:

  • R4-million going to the Red Location Art Gallery for operating and maintaining the facility;
  • R8-million for the digital library;
  • R1-million for the re-curation of the museum; and
  • R8-million for a Rivonia trial sculpture.

The museum’s acting assistant director, Chris du Preez, said estimated running costs were more than R300 000 a month.

“This includes water and electricity, and staff salaries.”

Surrounding streets are covered in litter, gaping holes have been cut in fences, and spiked palisades have been bent, rendering them easy to climb over.

Several gates lack locks and the bars have been sawn off a gate that restricts access to the museum’s roof.

Metal slats on the side of the building were yanked off, giving burglars access to the air-conditioning unit. Wires have been cut and copper pipes ripped out.

There was some hope last year when the municipality acceded to the residents’ demands and R32-million was approved for 288 new houses. Construction of three “show houses” has been started.

But Red Location steering committee member Mxolisi Nduvane said the new show houses would not mean the opening of the museum anytime soon.

“We are still waiting for the delivery of building material. We have stopped listening to empty promises.” Nduvane said the committee also wanted Red Location residents employed at the museum.

“If we see that, then we can talk about opening the museum.”

He admitted the closure of the museum was to get the municipality’s attention.

Asked about its condition, he said: “It saddens me to see this horrible state as a result of break-ins.”

The residents had chosen to close the museum instead of torching it, he said.

“We were against it being burnt down, as it is one of Nelson Mandela Bay’s historical sites that put our area on the map. But it does not make sense for us to have a beautiful facility surrounded by corrugated shacks.”

Mniki said the delivery of building material was the responsibility of the Eastern Cape Department of Human Settlements.

“The processes are being followed and we can’t give timeframes as some of the issues involved do not depend on the municipality.”

He said the full extent of the damage to the museum had yet to be determined, as access was restricted by the community.

Eastern Cape Human Settlements spokesman Lwandile Sicwetsha said the municipality should know the construction dates.

TARGET OF VANDALS: Theft is still taking place at the closed museum. PICTURE: EUGENE COETZEE
TARGET OF VANDALS: Theft is still taking place at the closed museum. PICTURE: EUGENE COETZEE

From ongoing protests to vandalism and theft

THE Red Location Museum, which was meant to highlight apartheid’s turbulent
past, now has its own precarious past.

October 4 2013: Angry Red Location residents forcibly close the museum over a demand for houses.

October 10: Residents protest in front of the museum demanding that money spent on fixing Singaphi Street – which leads to the museum – be used to fix their homes.

December: The first break-in takes place with computer screens stolen.

April 10 2014: The DA is barred from doing door-to-door campaigning by angry community leaders, who say no party can campaign until the houses are fixed.

July 14: Then Nelson Mandela Bay deputy mayor Chippa Ngcolomba calls an urgent meeting at the museum to discuss security issues. By this time, several gates lack locks and the bars of a gate have been sawn off.

August 2: Air-conditioners, pipes, cables, light fittings, fencing and drains are stolen from the museum.

November 10: Security guards manage to stop burglars from walking off with a computer and a DVD player. Thieves had gained entry to the museum by breaking an office window.

December 3: Security guard Andile Dingiswayo is shot dead 50m from the museum’s entrance.

June 30 2015: TVs, computers, projectors, scanners and speakers are stolen from the museum.

– Yoliswa Sobuwa

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