Soweto home of Mandela set to become a national heritage site
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THE Orlando West, Soweto home of late former president Nelson Mandela and Struggle icon Winnie Madikizela-Mandela is a step closer to being declared a national heritage site despite its owners being under liquidation.
The Gauteng Provincial Heritage Resources Authority (Gauteng PHRA) has asked the SA Heritage Resources Agency (Sahra) for the historical property to be proclaimed a grade 1 national heritage site.
Mandela House is currently declared a grade 2 provincial heritage site by the Gauteng PHRA.
South Africa’s first democratically-elected president lived in the house on the world famous Vilakazi Street from 1946 with his first wife Evelyn Mase and from 1957 with his second spouse Madikizela-Mandela after divorcing Mase.
Vilakazi Street is widely recognised as the only street in the world in which two Nobel Peace Prize laureates – Mandela and Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu – lived and is named after intellectual, poet and novelist Dr. BW Vilakazi.
According to Sahra, an entity of the national department of arts and culture, the significance of the house lies not only with the individuals that inhabited it but speaks to the spirit of Soweto and South Africa as a resilient people and community.
The agency believes that Mandela House, with its proximity to the Hector Pieterson Museum and Memorial, is not only a national but international site and a tourist destination that provides part of the history of the anti-apartheid struggle.
”The owners of the site are in full support to have the site graded and declared and are willing to co-operate in achieving this. It is also worth mentioning that the site is currently under the guardianship of court-appointed liquidators up until the point that new ownership is in place,” reads Sahra’s grading submission dated May 2021.
Sahra continued: “Due to the Nelson and Winnie Mandela House site’s good standing, the empowerment that it has imposed on the surrounding community and the freedom struggle it represents, it is recommended that the site is graded as a grade 1 heritage resource”.
Mandela House as a national heritage site will be used by Sahra to set best practice guidelines for the management of such facilities and leverage such historical places to initiate economic development in the surrounding areas.
”National heritage status has the potential (to) stimulate even greater interest in the site (researchers, tourists, community investment etc.) and heighten the importance of the site with regard to people’s perceptions,” the agency states in its grading submission dated May 2021.
It also indicates that national heritage status might aid public awareness of Mandela House and help conserve and manage an important historical property to two of South Africa’s renowned political activists and liberation struggle leaders for future generations.
However, Sahra has also admitted that it is worried about uncertainty of the future of Mandela House’s ownership.
The agency has noted that the current owners of Mandela House, the Soweto Heritage Trust, to which Mandela sold the property in 1998, are under liquidation.
”Future issues with regards to ownership are unclear, therefore, there is ambiguity around future management of the site,” Sahra expressed its fears.
In December last year, joint liquidators Allan Pellow and Michael Moloto invited organisations with an interest in, and possessing the necessary expertise and resources, to oversee the running of Mandela House and all related operations as a public visitor attraction, heritage site and museum.
Moloto did not respond to Independent Media’s questions he had asked to be e-mailed to him.