31 July 2005

7 world heritage sites

South Africa now has 7 world heritage sites. The Vredefort Dome, spanning the Free State and the North West provinces, is the latest one declared. The Vredefort Dome is the oldest and largest meteorite impact site in the world, formed an estimated two billion years ago when a giant meteorite hit the earth close to where Vredefort is today. The Department of Environmental Affairs and Tourism has allocated R18m from its poverty-relief programme for tourism and infrastructural development of the site. These funds would be used for the eradication of alien invasive vegetation, hiking trails and the construction of a tourism centre.

The Mapungubwe kingdom

In 2000, the then 23 year old Sian TILEY-NEL, author of Mapungubwe: South Africa's crown jewels, became the youngest curator of a South African museum - the Mapungubwe Museum in the Ou Lettere building, University of Pretoria. The museum covers the history of the first South African kingdom between 1220 and 1290. The people of the Mapungubwe kingdom mined gold, copper and iron in the Limpopo area. They created intricate jewellery from these minerals. Their skills as potters and sculpturers can also be seen. Archaeologists have dug up interesting finds since the first finds on 01 January 1933. In 1947, General Jan SMUTS proclaimed the area around Mapungubwe as the Dongola heritage area, but the following year, when the National Party came into power, it was one of the first proclamations they scrapped. In 2003 Mapungubwe was declared a world heritage site by Unesco and last September the Mapungubwe National Park was proclaimed.

Sol DAVIDS, the Mensch of Monument

Sol DAVIDS of Monument, Krugersdorp, is known as the Mensch of Monument. He recently celebrated his 90th birthday at the Noordheuwel Bowling Club. Oom Sol lives in Piet Joubert Street in Monument, where he settled after WW2. He refers to himself as a Free State Jew from Ficksburg. He volunteered for service during WW2 in the British Army and served in Somaliland, North Africa. A transfer to England follwed 5 years later, where he was an officer in the Royal Armoured Call. After the war, he settled in Krugersdorp and started Sol Davids Furniture in Luipaardsvlei. He married Pearl, who passed away recently. They had 2 sons and a daughter. Oom Sol has been an active member of various community organisations and clubs, including the Krugersdorp Chamber of Commerce, the Krugersdorp Arts Festival, Rotary and the bowling club.

Family History Fair in Durban, 24 Sept 2005

A Family history Fair is to be held at the Family History Centre in Montgomery Lane (off Silverton between Vause and Lancaster Roads) in Durban on Saturday 24th September 2005 (Heritage Day) from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. There will be about 12 -15 stands with various items of interest, plus research assistance, Internet connection, and various talks and film shows. There will be no charge for stands and entry to the public will be free. For more information, contact Jenny Harries, Director, Family History Centre, Durban - Tel/Fax 031-2022386 or cell 083-6614457.

Libraries in crisis

The government is being asked to consider a new deal for South Africa's 1 240 public libraries. Provinces, who are responsible for the libraries, are not getting money from central government to meet their responsibilities. In the past, libraries had been run 90% by municipalities. Since 1996 the provinces were meant to control the libraries but they have no money to do so. Municipalities had on the whole continued paying staff salaries and looking after the infrastructure, the buildings and grounds. However, faced with growing demand for basic services such as water, cleansing and sewage, the municipalities were cutting back on library budgets, which led to cuts in staff and opening hours, and even the closure of some libraries.
A libraries working group was set up by the print industry, and after research in all 9 provinces, made recommendations to the national Department of Arts and Culture earlier this year. The group recommended municipalities should continue to look after library buildings and other infrastructure. Another recommendation was that provinces should build capacity in libraries, so they were able to tell the province what books they wanted for their particular readers and appoint appropriate staff.

A Kruger at St Andrews

The British Open at St. Andrews in Scotland has a touch of South Africa. Between the 9th and 10th hole, there are 3 small sand bunkers. The biggest one is named Kruger, the next one is Mrs Kruger and the smallest one is Kruger's mistress. This dates back to the start of the Anglo-Boer War when the darling of St. Andrews was Lt. Frederick Guthrie TAIT. He could smack a golf ball further than anyone else - he was the British amateur golf champion in 1896 and 1898. Freddie was also an officer in the Black Watch, one of Scotland's most famous regiments. In 1899 he was given a send-off reception before leaving for the war in South Africa. In December 1899 he was wounded during the Battle of Magersfontein. In February 1900, he died on the battlefield near Kimberley. The day the Scots back home heard of his death, they built an effigy of Kruger and burnt it in a sand bunker at St Andrews. And that is how the bunker got its name.

SAA Museum

The South African Airways Museum is now open to the public. It was started in 1986 by a group of volunteers at Jan Smuts Airport (now Johannesburg International Airport). The museum is now based at the Transvaal Aviation Club's club house at Rand Airport in Germiston.
South African Airways was founded in 1934, making it one of the world's oldest national airlines. The museum depicts its early history, including scale models of the aircraft, uniforms and personnel. Nearby you can see the Boeing 747 Lebombo which flew over Ellis Park before the start of the Rugby World Cup final between the Springboks and the All Blacks on 24 June 1995. The Boeing was donated to the museum and made its historic landing on the short and narrow runway at Rand Airport on 05 March 2004. Other past aircraft show the different tail insignia used, from the orange with a blue and white stripe with the small flying springbok (1960 to 1984), to the orange with the larger flying springbok (1984 to 1994) to the current multi-coloured tail (from 1994 onwards). For more information contact Barry ELS at 082 859 6100.

Kimberley diamonds lead to Bentley classic

The idea of a race between a Bentley car and the Blue Train in France goes back to a wager that Woolf BARNATO had with some friends in 1930. Woolf wanted to test Bentley's advertising claims that their car was faster than the Blue Train.
Woolf's father was Barney BARNATO who, with Cecil RHODES, became wealthy by developing the Kimberley diamond mines. While sailing home to England, Barney mysteriously disappeared overboard. Woolf, then 2 years old and accompanying his father, became an instant millionaire.
In the late 1920s, Woolf joined the "Bentley Boys," a group of young men who favored W.O. BENTLEY's big, fast sports cars. Four of the Bentley Boys owned adjoining flats in London's Grosvenor Square. They were serious racers, part of the official Bentley race team determined to win LeMans. Their first win came in 1927, the last in 1930 with Woolf sharing the driving duties. Woolf propped up the Bentley Motor Car company with his business savvy, eventually becoming chairman.
The Blue Train (le Train Bleue) was as legendary as the racing Bentleys. It was the quickest and most luxurious transport from the Riviera to Calais and then, via the English Channel to Dover, where it was loaded on to a ferry to London's Victoria station.
Woolf took up the wager, setting out in a specially-bodied Bentley coupe. In those days the entire trip would have been made on 2-lane roads at speeds exceeding 100 mph. Woolf arrived in Calais ahead of the Blue Train, continued by ferry and beat the train to its final destination in London by 4 minutes. That very Bentley is now revered as the Blue Train Special.

Family Bible saved from garbage heap

Bessie LINDE (born LOOCK), a resident of the Kokanje retirement home in Modimolle (Nylstroom), saved a family Bible from the garbage dump. The Bible was found by Thelma SETHOLE, who took it to Bessie. She took it to Prof. Petra KAHL at Randse Afrikaanse Universiteit. There was a family tree in the Bible, which made tracing the rightful owner easier. Prof. KAHL eventually handed it over to Jack LOOCK, a former Senator. The family had moved from Willowmore to Middelburg, Mpumalanga. It is estimated that the Bible is more than 100 years old. It has now been bequethed to Johan Hendrik LOOCK.

Family Bible printed in 1702

Flip VAN VUUREN (73) of Modimolle (Nylstroom) who retired recently as co-owner of the Shrangri-La Hotel, is the proud owner of a family Bible inherited from his mother. Flip, a former Police member, was christened Philippus Jacobus Wilhelmus Buys Jansen VAN VUUREN, after his grandfather. The Afrikaans family Bible, known as a Statebybel, was printed in the Netherlands in 1702 and was bought by Flip's grandfather, who received it by ship. During the voyage, the Bible sustained water damage, which is still visible. Grandfather VAN VUUREN made the first entry of his family tree in the Bible - his marriage in 1895 to to Maria Elizabeth BUYS. According to family lore, the Bible was buried during the Anglo-Boer War.

Internship leads to photo find

An intern journalist found a work placement a lot more rewarding by going through old newspaper issues recently in East London. Sibongile Mkani was paging through back issues of GO!, the community newspaper, when she came across a photo of her grandfather Nqabisile Mgwangqa (now 84) - posing for a Buffalo City Tourism poster. It features him with his hat raised and wearing a red tie - although he was not aware that the photo was used. He lives in the village of Esikhobeni, where Sibongile showed him the poster.

New Prince Albert village book

The Prince Albert’s Writers' Guild has produced a book covering the town’s history, culture, architecture and traditions, titled Prince Albert (Kweekvallei): landmark events, colourful characters and the free style of an historic Karoo town, a retrospective view. The 120-page book contains many photographs and maps. It covers the earliest inhabitants who lived in area during Stone Age times, the Khoi-Khoi and San, and Zacharias DE BEER, owner of the first farm, Kweekvallei. Other topics include the town’s gables, designed by Carl LOTZ, the 1891 Gold Rush and Khoi-San remedies.

Oldest double-storey commercial building in the Transvaal

The Lewis and Marks building in Barberton was built in 1886 by Isaac LEWIS and his cousin Sammy MARKS. It is reputed to be the first double-storey commercial building built in the Transvaal. It was the premises for the original Bank of Africa. The building is going to sell on auction soon. It was built in Zuid Afrikaansche architectural style and has been zoned for commercial use by the Barberton municipality. No major renovations have taken place on the building.