Award-winning Zulu heritage museum vacant for two years

By kailene Pillay Time of article published Feb 1, 2019

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DURBAN - A striking new R350million museum in Durban has been standing vacant for two years - and eThekwini Municipality says it does not know when it will open.

While the dormant building has raised concerns in council, city officials said they were in search of a new contractor to complete the project.

The five-storey uMkhumbane Cultural and Heritage Museum in Cato Manor, pictured, was chosen as the Overall Winner of the Africa Architecture Awards 2017.

The doors have remained shut, despite the city hosting a launch party in 2017, and the funeral in October last year of architect Rod Choromanski, who designed the museum with Dean Ramlal.

City spokesperson Msawakhe Mayisela said the contractor, Elias Mechanicos Building and Civil Engineering Contractors (Pty) Ltd, achieved “practical completion” on November 9, 2016 and then liquidated on October 12, 2017.

“This was the main reason there has been a delay. Plans are under way to complete it and open it to the public.”

Mayisela said that given that the facility was not yet completed and there were some “snags” to be dealt with, it was “extremely difficult” to determine when the facility would be open.

He said once all relevant divisions, such as architectural services, supply chain management and the bid adjudication committee, had approved the appointment of a new contractor to carry out the outstanding work, the city would be in a better position to know.

In 2011, during the reburial of King Goodwill Zwelithini’s mother, Queen Thomozile, the city stated it would build a multimillion-rand centre to commemorate Zulu heritage. The queen died in 1959 and was buried in Mayville. Her remains were exhumed and reburied in Cato Manor.

The DA in eThekwini has since requested a meeting with the city’s head of Parks, Recreation and Culture, Thembinkosi Ngcobo, for answers.

DA councillors Thabani Mthethwa and Nicole Graham recently conducted an oversight visit to the museum and found that although the building was structurally complete, it was vacant.

“The two-year mark of the museum standing vacant is fast approaching and the costs of securing the empty building are rising. The R350m project is not providing the economic and cultural benefits that were promised for the people of Cato Manor,” Mthethwa said.

He said the party would be following the matter closely to ensure that tax- payers’ money was properly used and that this museum was functional. “The people of Cato Manor and Durban deserve full use and benefit of this public facility,” Mthethwa said.


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