R12m to fix vandalised museum

Stalemate as Red Location decline continues four years after doors were shut

Severe damage to Port Elizabeth’s Red Location Museum caused by thieves and vandals as well as poor workmanship has left the facility in such a sorry state that the estimated cost to repair it is close to R12-million.

Almost four years after the museum shut its doors over housing protests, the stalemate has yet to be resolved, while the once-prized facility continues to deteriorate daily.

During a recent site inspection of the Red Location Museum, art gallery and digital library, councillors of the municipal public accounts committee (Mpac) found broken windows, water leaks and damaged carpets.

Other, more severe, damage included structural problems with the buildings, broken fences and theft of some of the equipment.

The Mpac councillors, who discussed the rundown Red Location precinct at a committee meeting yesterday, said the art gallery and digital library – which were never opened to the public – were in a ghastly state and would need to be repaired.

The lack of maintenance by the Nelson Mandela Bay Municipality since it closed its doors has also resulted in water damage to carpets and furniture, but staff are barred from entering the premises without community consent.

The museum was closed in October 2013 because of community protests over shoddily built RDP houses close to the museum .

Later, more than 200 homeowners agreed that their defective homes could be demolished and rebuilt to meet the government’s 40m² standards.

But some refuse to budge, even though an engineer declared their homes structurally unsound with no solid foundations.

They are insisting that the municipality instead repair their houses, which are 48m².

But government policy – which came into effect after the houses were built 16 years ago – prohibits the repair or construction of a house that is not the legislated 40m² size.

It is unclear when the showpiece will reopen as the impasse has yet to be resolved.

Sports, recreation, arts and culture department executive director Noxolo Nqwazi said it was difficult to say when the facility would be opened to the public as the community kept shifting the goal posts and changing their demands.

Mpac chairman Lance Grootboom said: “It was so sad to see such a beautiful building that was supposed to attract tourists and speak of our history looking like that.

“The museum is now standing dead. The art gallery and library were never even opened but there was damage.”

ANC councillor Ncediso Captain wanted to know if the mayor and deputy mayor were still trying to resolve the housing issues at a political level.

“This is a serious problem that must be resolved. It needs national government intervention,” Captain said.

DA councillor Heindrich Muller said it was unfair on the security who have to guard the buildings as they were in such a sad state.

“The buildings are covered in dust, the windows are broken and it’s cold. We can’t treat our staff like that,” Muller said.

“I don’t think we should spend a cent more on the [precinct] until the community issues have been resolved.”

EFF councillor Lukhanyo Mrara wanted timeframes set for when the facility would be reopened.

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