Bloemfontein - The birthplace of the ANC, the Waaihoek Wesleyan Church in Bloemfontein, has been declared a national heritage site more than seven years after the Free State provincial government bought the building for R10million. 

The SA Heritage Resources Agency (SAHRA) received an application for the church to be declared a national heritage site.

The building was previously a panel-beating workshop, and the provincial government renovated it in time for the ANC’s centenary celebrations in 2012.

In January 1912, history was made when prominent African leaders such as Pixley Seme, Saul Msane, Sol Plaatje and WB Rubusana, among others, were joined by traditional and religious leaders in establishing the South African Native National Congress (SANNC).

Eleven years later, in 1923, the SANNC changed its name to the ANC. According to the SAHRA, the church has exceptional qualities of special national significance in terms of the heritage assessment criteria and has the desirability of being declared a national heritage site.

The SAHRA requires a written motivation for the declaration of a place as a heritage site.

In July 2011, the provincial government bought the rundown church for R10m after lengthy negotiations with Kevin Jacobs, who had bought it for R280 000 in 2003. Jacobs was reportedly demanding R15m for the historical building.

ANC provincial spokesperson Thabo Meeko said the Free State Department of Sport, Arts, Culture and Recreation submitted the written motivation for the church to be declared a national heritage site.

The department told Independent Media that it made the request several years ago.

The ANC is also planning to turn its former head office in London into a museum. The movement used the property between 1978 and 1994 and it was declared a heritage site by the City of London.

According to the ANC, the building will be refurbished and its ground floor used as a museum to keep the Struggle history alive.

Its upper floors will also be renovated and turned into residential units for renting or be sold. The London building is worth R10m and is part of the ANC’s property portfolio worth nearly R310m spread across the world.

The party has assigned the Liliesleaf Trust with the responsibility of developing the building as a heritage site and to link it with the historical Liliesleaf Farm in Rivonia.

The party also has two more properties in London and others in Tanzania and Belgium valued at R81.5m and R7m respectively.

Last year, Shell House, the ANC’s first head office in South Africa after its unbanning in 1990, started welcoming tenants.

The massive 23-storey building in downtown Joburg was bought by Hosken Consolidated Investments (HCI) from the ANC-owned Dakawa Properties. The party owns a 25% stake in HCI Propco 4, a subsidiary of HCI.

Part of Shell House is also reserved for heritage purposes.

Sunday Independent