Historic Fort Frederick under siege by vagrants
The authorities have joined forces to take back Fort Frederick from heritage thugs.
Vagrants have gouged rocks out of the walls of the historic building – the oldest in Port Elizabeth – and left a grim trail of fire-blackened walls, litter, faeces and graffiti.
Mandela Bay Tourism Agency CEO Glenton de Kock said on Monday a wide range of stakeholders, including the agency, the metro, the Mandela Bay Development Agency, the Mandela Bay Heritage Trust and tour operators had met to tackle the situation.
“We discussed how as good citizens we can secure, manage and showcase the assets of the city. Historic installations like Fort Frederick are key selling points,” De Kock said.
“The details of how these assets will be secured will be set down in the coming days in a comprehensive plan.”
Tour guide Tony Neveling, of Tino’s Eastern Cape Expeditions, said he visited the fort with three Belgian visitors last week.
“To my dismay, sadness, embarrassment and annoyance, I noted that Fort Frederick had been occupied by vagrants.
“The armoury is occupied, with a blanket serving as a partition at the entrance.
“Most alarming is that the occupants have broken off some stones from the wall and placed them on the inside to keep the doors closed.
“We desperately need to do something to protect this building.”
The fort is situated on a hill overlooking the harbour on open land off Athol Fugard Terrace in Central.
Plaques on the paved entrance path in Afrikaans, Xhosa and English describe how the fort was built in 1799 during the Napoleonic Wars between France and allies led by Britain.
It was intended as a permanent military base overlooking the only safe anchorage on SA’s southeast coast.
When The Herald visited the site on Monday, the vagrants appeared to have moved on but they had left a mess.
The avenue behind the armoury reeked of faeces and graffiti was scrawled across the roof.
Inside, the walls were blackened by smoke and the floor was covered in rubbish.
The rocks which had been used to hold the door closed, now piled at the entrance, had apparently been levered from a hole in the wall above the entrance.
The perimeter fence on the east side of the fort was missing a section and decorated with an array of wind-blown “plastic flowers”.
Blunden Coach Tours guide Lizwe Ndlovu, who was showing a group of Indian journalists around, said tourists would be lost if assets like Fort Frederick were not cared for.
Johannesburg tourist David Bewsher said he had brought his godson to see the cannon, but was disappointed by the state of the fort.
Heritage Trust chair Grizel Hart called for a two-pronged solution.
“We need a permanent guard and also a couple of the guys who presently sell their crafts at the beachfront to set up outside the fort instead.
“Their presence will help secure the area and create a buzz at the same time.”
Metro spokesperson Kupido Baron said the vagrants had long been a headache.
“Absolutely, Fort Frederick is an asset and we promote it as an attraction for tourists and families to freely enjoy.
“However, vagrants remove stones to store their personal belongings in the wall during the day, and return at night to sleep there.”
He confirmed a joint enforcement plan was being drawn up and said the metro police would also be alerted.