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Costly youth memorial acre unveiled at last

Johannesburg - After two-and-a-half years and nearly double the estimated initial cost, the June 16 Memorial Acre is finally open.

On Monday, Gauteng Premier David Makhura unveiled the plaque and officially opened the multimillion-rand institute.

Hundreds of youths, joined by Gauteng Premier David Makhura, walked the Metro FM June 16 Freedom March in Soweto on Monday. Picture: Sharon Seretlo. Credit: THE STAR

Years of protracted delays from the outset in October 2010 resulted in the institute increasing in cost by R20 million to R48m.

The project began in November 2011 and escalated in cost after delays – blamed on the weather, changes in design and funding of other high-priority projects – resulting in the opening being pushed back at least three times.

The Memorial Acre in Central Western Jabavu, Soweto, opposite the famous Morris Isaacson High School, is to form part of the June 16 trail.

Ali Hlongwane, deputy director for museums and galleries in Joburg, led the premier on a tour around the institute, which consists of an art gallery, multipurpose rooms, and a computer and multimedia room.

Hlongwane said the acre would run as an operational centre where young artists establishing themselves could display their talents in the mini-gallery.

The precinct was also officially handed over to the City of Joburg, with City Parks tasked with its maintenance.

Makhura made a pledge to previous generations and firefighters, saying their contribution was not in vain.

He said the youth of today could live to enjoy the fruits of their labour.

“We will ensure the story of our struggle is told to future generations,” he said.

The Walk of Freedom took place just after the unveiling, starting from the Memorial Acre to Phefeni High School, also stopping by the bridge where one of the uprising leaders, Tsietsi Mashinini, was killed.

Those who chose not to take part in the march walked around the acre, taking pictures and reflecting at the Wall of Remembrance.

The wall shows a list of journalists who were involved in the Struggle, a list of the Class of ’76 and a map of schools that took part in the uprising.

The trail takes in four different precincts of significance in Soweto, including Vilakazi Street and the Hector Pieterson Museum. The Memorial Acre is the first point of the trail.

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