A Facebook group called Ex ’Maritzburgers Unite has been deploring the sad state of the Pentrich train station.
Durban — The Msunduzi municipality has come under fire for neglecting its historic monuments.
Locals and cultural enthusiasts say the municipality is neglecting a goldmine as these structures and monuments are the drawcard for tourists who bring much-needed revenue to the KwaZulu-Natal capital.
Citing the example of the Pentrich train station, many locals lamented how the station with a history in the Struggle for liberation was being neglected.
A Facebook group called Ex ’Maritzburgers Unite has been deploring the sad state of the station.
“The sad part is these sites/buildings could be let to local businesses/ entrepreneurs to be revived and create small economic hubs. But go to Transnet to try to put forward such requests … ” wrote Ndumiso Mthethwa.
On the same page, Fanyana Mkhize expressed his frustration at how some structures were falling apart because of neglect.
“The country is slowly degenerating into a bush, what infrastructure have we inherited? All that has gone down the drain, such a pity!”
Consultant heritage specialist and former director of Amafa – the government’s heritage body – Ros Devereux, charged that state-owned buildings were often neglected when there was no longer use for them.
Transnet’s properties had mostly been vandalised to the point of being uneconomical to repair, and the low usage of the railways for freight and passenger travel had led to even more vandalism of the entity’s properties.
“Pentrich has been declared a National Monument, now a Provincial Landmark. It was converted into a house in the 1980s. Some years back, the municipality let a fire break burn get out of control and part of the roof was burnt,” Devereux said.
She expressed disappointment at how the station had been vandalised over the years although attempts were made to keep vagrants out of the building.
“However, security has been lacking over the past few years and vagrants set the building alight last year and the roof has been damaged.”
Speaking to the Independent on Saturday, Msunduzi city manager Lulamile Mapholoba conceded that the City had not done much to preserve its historic monuments, adding that it was a reflection of the state of affairs in the past where some assets were not looked after.
He said officials had not been performing their duties and this had impacted on the state of infrastructure, including historic monuments such as the Pentrich train station and the Pietermaritzburg City Hall.
“If we do not do something to repair City Hall, one day it will collapse because it is an old building. This is why there are repairs undertaken to avoid this because this building has great historic value.”
Mapholoba noted the potential for the City to generate extra revenue through tourism, and the steps necessary to realise this ambition.
He committed himself to having the monuments looked after and, where necessary, restored. He cited engagements with Transnet to ensure the station, along with the Pietermaritzburg train station, were in good condition to be able to generate revenue.
“We are also in discussions with the Department of Economic Development, Tourism and Environmental Affairs for assistance in the availing of funding for these tourism-related initiatives.”
Pietermaritzburg is considered to have a unique history with prominent African, Afrikaans, English and Indian leaders having visited or lived in the city. They include Mahatma Gandhi, who was ejected from a train in Pietermaritzburg, and the young Nelson Mandela, who made his last public speech as a free man at Manaye Hall in Imbali Township before his arrest.
Many cultural enthusiasts insist the City should ensure the monuments honouring them are kept in pristine condition throughout the year, not just during Tourism Month (September), so that they can attract tourists.
Independent on Saturday