Remember history, good and bad, Msimanga says as Church Square reopens
Pretoria - Executive Mayor Solly Msimanga on Friday gave a strong hint that the statue of Paul Kruger and his gun-toting burghers would remain at the revamped Church Square.
He was speaking during the reopening of the new-look Church Square, which was welcomed by businesses, informal traders and the public.
Msimanga said the City believed that people had to remember all history, good and bad, to encourage discourse among all the youth.
In this regard, he said the City would consider adding statues of Struggle icons at Church Square. “In fact, we do have something similar in the city. If you go to the Unions Buildings, you’ll find the statue of Louis Botha and in front you’ll find the statue of Nelson Mandela. You can actually have perpetual discussion around them and that’s part of what is happening here at Church Square.”
He said there would be plaques that would talk about the different aspects of South African history, as was the case at the Voortrekker Monument and Freedom Park. Msimanga, MMC for Roads and Transport Sheila Lynn Senkubuge and MEC Dr Ismail Vadi cut the ribbon to mark the occasion and informal traders, business people, government employees and heritage fanatics affected by the R28 million investment toured the square.
The day marked the end of the first phase of the lengthy project to restore Church Square to its former glory. The first phase brought granite tiling, walkways, granite benching and storm-water diversions to the inner square.
The outer square saw the installation of plant boxes, bollards, lane separation and introduction of one-way traffic. This second phase is expected to start in the fourth quarter of the 2018/19 financial year and is set to be completed in the next financial year.
The project started early last year and involved parking restrictions. The road around the square is used exclusively by A Re Yeng buses and emergency services.
About Church Square
- Frequented by tourists, students and passers-by on a daily basis
- The City of Tshwane holds its New Year’s bash at the venue. ◆ Informal traders, including florists, photographers, fruit and snack sellers, ply their trade at the facility
- The availability of free wi-fi became a major attraction. ◆ Established in 1855, it underwent much transformation over the years
- It’s been a home for street performers, a testing ground for artists, a venue for impromptu sermons and a starting point for protests
- Its most prominent feature is the statue of Paul Kruger and four soldiers
- The Old Capitol Theatre, Tudor Chambers, Ou Raadsaal and the Palace of Justice are just some of the historical buildings situated around the facility
- During construction, workers unearthed tram lines believed to be 105 years old. Trams were a main mode of public transport in 1910.
The revamp of Church Square was not an easy process:
- Workers employed by the subcontractor tasked to install the paving, vegetation and stormwater drains downed tools a number of times over wage and contract grievances
- The subcontractor claimed it could not pay the workers their salaries on time or extend their short-term contracts because the main contractor had not paid for the work done
- The City reiterated that although it was intervening to resolve the tension and see work resumed, it had already paid its due balance to the contractor
- Informal traders who could not be hired by the subcontractor claimed they too deserve to be absorbed to continue generating an income.
- The traders who continued trading there during the construction claimed that business had taken a knock because there was no more foot traffic