11 March 2006

Baviaanskloof Tourism Route

The Baviaanskloof Tourism Route was recently launched. The route’s aim is to capture all the kloof’s many attractions and to encourage visitors to stay longer. The route was created in collaboration with the people of the kloof, the Baviaanskloof Mega-Reserve Project, Rand Merchant Bank as the funding agency and Open Africa, an NGO under the patronage of Nelson Mandela with the vision of optimising job creation through conservation and tourism. The Baviaanskloof is a World Heritage site.
The route is divided into five sub-routes starting with the central Baviaanskloof Heritage Sub-Route, which runs from Komdomo in the east to Nuwekloof. The other sub-routes include the Gamtoos Valley towns of Loerie, Hankey and Patensie, agri-tourism and the grave of Sarah Baartman; the wool and mohair capital of Steytlerville, town of flags, with its distinctive Victorian cottages; a western gateway route stretching from Vaalwater to Hartebeesrivier, a region known for its magnificent rock art and hiking trails. The last sub-route includes Willowmore, which has Victorian and Edwardian architecture.

Victoria West - a Karoo gem

The town of Victoria West in the Karoo is a little treasure trove. The town still has original Karoo houses that have remained unchanged. It is also home to the Victoria Trading Post (which includes the Mannetjies Roux Museum), a shop in the same tradition as Oom Samie se Winkel in Stellenbosch.The shop is owned by Mannetjies Roux's wife, Charlotte, whose sister Joyce Aucamp owns Oom Samie se Winkel. Mannetjies is a legendary former Springbok rugby player who wore the number 12. The Mannetjies Roux Museum has memorabilia from his life. He was immortalised in a song. The shop's fridge still bears the scar of a break-in a few years ago. Thieves took everything that was inside and left an apology written on the door, which is still there.

The Roux's daughter, Francette Coetzee, owns the Karoo Trading Post in Bellville. She sells Karoo lamb and venison, venison pasties, Karoo garlic, dried fruits, Karoo water from the family farm Nobelsfontein and a range of craft items similar to those in the Victoria Trading Post.

The Dutch Reformed Church bought a section of the farm Zeekoegat in 1843 and the church building was consecrated in 1855. In the Victoria West Museum, the Cultural History Hall has displays on the role of the church, the opening of the first bank, the history of sport in the area, the Victoria West Messenger newspaper and early Stone Age artefacts. The Anglican Church dates from 1943. The Apollo Theatre is in the 1950s Art Deco style. It has been declared a heritage site and regularly hosts film festivals. The Print Shop is where the local paper, the Victoria West Messenger, was first printed in 1876.

10 March 2006

Routes to Roots: A collection of Web sites for South African genealogy & family history research

Routes to Roots: A collection of Web sites for South African genealogy & family history research. Compiled by a top South African professional genealogist, Anne Lehmkuhl, this e-book is a must for those looking for South African genealogy and family history on the Internet. It helps you get to the right places, quickly and efficiently. Routes to Roots contains 900+ Web sites or contact addresses.

Over the years, Anne has gained a reputation for finding genealogical or historical information easily, as well as locating elusive ancestors or descendants. Some of her success stories include:
  • Re-uniting two long-lost friends, one in the USA and one in South Africa, after 20 years of no contact.
  • Locating someone's South African family history, with photos, within an hour of receiving the query from Australia.
  • Re-uniting two cousins, one in the USA and one in South Africa, who didn't know they had family connections.
  • Putting together someone's family history that started in England, led to South Africa and ended up in Australia.
Each Web site or contact address in Routes to Roots has been selected for its relevance to South African research. This e-book has 132 pages. The quality Web sites or contacts are arranged under the following categories:
  • 1820 Settlers
  • Adoption - includes an article on adoption records
  • Anglo-Boer War - includes notes on Anglo-Boer War records
  • Antiques / Auctions
  • Archives and Libraries
  • Beginning Genealogy - includes a brief history and geography of South Africa, notes on beginning your search and sources of information in South Africa
  • Books
  • Churches
  • Coats-of-Arms - includes notes on the use of coats-of-arms
  • Computer Stuff
  • Databases maintained by individuals
  • Dutch East India Company (VOC)
  • Family histories on-line - 124 Web sites full of South African roots
  • Genealogical societies
  • General South African history
  • Magazines
  • Maps and Gazetters
  • Message boards / E-mail lists
  • Military - includes notes on researching military ancestors, a listing of useful books for military research
  • Miscellaneous
  • Museums - 118 Web sites
  • Namibia / South West Africa
  • Newspapers - 220 South African Web sites or contact details
  • Overseas research
  • People search
  • Police
  • Preserving memories
  • Professions
  • Search engines - includes notes on using search engines
  • Settlers - German, Jews, Italians and more
  • Shipping
  • Sport
  • Towns / Cities
  • Zimbabwe / Rhodesia
Now available in .pdf format as an e-book. Please contact Anne for prices.

09 March 2006

Zoo Lake is 100 years old

Zoo Lake, in Johannesburg, celebrated its 100th birthday recently. In 1904, the land around the Johannesburg Zoo and Zoo Lake in the Herman Eckstein Park was ceded in trust to residents of Johannesburg to be used as a public park, by Werner Beit and Company which later became Rand Mines. In February 1906 the council looked at the possibility of establishing an artificial lake. Once agreed to, it became a job-creation project for the poor. The first boating licence was issued in 1911. Much of the parkland was originally marshland and formed part of the Sachsenwald plantation which was owned by the Braamfontein Company. The trees were sold as timber and other trees were planted to see which tree was best suited to the Highveld.

Percy Fitzpatrick, who was acting head of Rand Mines, eventually started housing sick and injured wild animals which he brought back from his hunting trips. When his wife objected to them roaming around, they were put into enclosures and people came to see them. These enclosures were eventually converted into the Johannesburg Zoo.

Started in 1949 by the Johannesburg City Council's welfare department and Rotary, Carols by Candlelight has become an annual event attended by thousands of people.

In 1956, Margot Fonteyn danced Swan Lake with the lake as a backdrop as part of the city's 70th celebrations. Two years later, pennywhistler Spokes Mashiyane played at the lake and a young white woman was seen dancing to his music. Pressure was put on the council to declare Zoo Lake a whites only park but the council said the deed of gift did not distinguish colour between people of Johannesburg and it would only change the park if national government would finance an amenity of the same size in a black area. This was not taken any further and the lake remained open to people of all races.

The Coronation Fountain, which stands in the middle of the lake, was built in 1937 to commemorate the coronation of King George VI. In 2003 the fountain was restored at a cost of R350 000, mainly through fundraising and with money from Johannesburg City Parks and the city's arts, culture and heritage services department.

08 March 2006

Military grave vandalised

KwaZulu-Natal's provincial heritage association, Amafa, recently issued a warning that military graves and battlefields in the province do not contain any valuable relics. This was following yet another incident of vandalism on a military grave, in which vandals smashed the Gloucestershire Memorial at Rietfontein near Ladysmith, digging up the grave of the regiment’s commanding officer, Colonel E.P. Wilford, who was killed during the Anglo-Boer War. It will cost Amafa around R8 000 to repair a marble obelisk bearing the regiment’s insignia and an inscription marking Colonel Wilford’s grave.

Funding at last

South Africa's libraries are to get a R1bn funds injection over the next three years, according to Arts and Culture Minister Pallo Jordan. Other infrastructure overhauls included the National Archives in Pretoria. A R700m extension to the National Archives has been approved and is in the design phase.

Harrow Road renamed

Harrow Road in Johannesburg was recently renamed Joe Slovo Drive. City bosses said the renaming was in remembrance of the veteran freedom fighter who died from cancer in 1995. Slovo spent his early years in Yeoville. He was arrested and detained for two months during the treason trial of 1956. During his years in exile, he lived in the UK, Angola, Mozambique and Zambia, returning to South Africa in 1990. At the time of his death he was the Minister of Housing, the national chairman of the South African Communist Party and a member of the national executive committee of the ANC.

150th anniversary for Rhenish School

May 2010 will mark the 150th anniversary of the founding of the Rhenish School. In 1860 the German mission that established the Rhenish Church on the Braak, started a school for the daughters of the missionaries. Rhenish Girls' High is the oldest girls' school in South Africa. Towards the end of its first century, the school was bursting out of its historic premises alongside the Braak. A new site was developed on farmland next to Krigeville and in 1958 the high school moved into new premises. The primary school continued in the old premises on the Braak. In 1984 the primary section moved to new premises on the Doornbosch estate. Soon after the move, boys were admitted up to Grade 7, making Rhenish Primary a co-educational school. A committee was constituted on 17 September 2005 to co-ordinate planning for the 150th anniversary. Rhenish Old Girls, former staff members, current or former parents and friends of the school are asked to make contact by phone 021 887 6807 or by e-mail tambri@rhenish.co.za

Anglo-Boer War graves to be maintained

The renovation and maintainance of the graves of about 25 000 Commonwealth soldiers who died in the Anglo-Boer War (1899-1902) was officially handed over to the South African government last year. Over 200 cemeteries throughout South Africa will be renovated, with the UK government and private sponsors providing the £800 000 required over the next four years. A further £150 000 will be made available every year for maintenance. The deal also included plans to locate the graves of black South Africans who took part in the war. Tombstones will be erected and a monument built for those whose graves cannot be identified. Although both the British and Boers initially agreed that black people were not to be used in a combatant role in the war, at least 15 000 blacks were armed by the British and served in mobile columns to track down Boer commandos. A further 25 000 served as armed blockhouse guards. Black South Africans were also used on the Imperial Military Railway system, and served as scouts, agterryers and wagon drivers. They also became refugees of war, had their homes and livelihoods destroyed in the British scorched earth policy, and were interned in the British concentration camps.

Buried and forgotten

The cemetery at the corner of Front and Powell Streets in Wellington, is where thousands of Wellington residents rest, but it is now overgrown and drug users and criminals hang out there. A visitor from Denmark, June Nielsen-Ferreira, who could not trace her ancestors’ graves when she visited the site, complained to the local authorities about the disgraceful loss of a major part of Wellington’s history. She included an aerial photograph of the area, with the red-roofed St Albans Primary School opposite the barren site, as well as an old photograph of her ancestor’s tombstones showing a morgue and a tuberculosis hospital in Upper Front Street. An entire section of the more than two hectare site was used for victims of the 1918 flu epidemic. The municipality took over the site in the 1980s from churches like the United Reformed Church (VGK), Zion and the Full Gospel Church. An adjoining well-cared for cemetery still belongs to the Moslem community. According to a municipal spokesman, the grass in unutilised cemeteries is only mowed twice a year. There is also no funding to fence the area, or do research about location of graves. The administration was done by the churches themselves, and no-one seems to have data. The municipality maintains that maintenance of tombstones and grave sites is the responsibility of family members. Rev SG de Villiers, a former minister of the Wellington VGK, is buried there. Drakenstein mayor Herman Bailey’s grandfather is buried there, and so is his wife’s brother. His father was, for a few years, caretaker of the cemetery. In 1995 the municipality accepted a proposal to enclose the area, tidy up the scattered tombstones and to green the area, but nothing came of it. June was told by informed Chantelle de Kock, a municipality employee, that the site did not fall under the Municipal heritage officer as cemeteries resorted under the jurisdiction of the Municipal Parks. She said that should anyone want to take charge of the cemetery it would have to be the community who identified with the particular site.

Peaceful Rhodes

The village of Rhodes, at the southern end of the mighty Drakensberg and named for Cecil John Rhodes, has no street lights and most houses have no electricity. The village looks much the same as it did in 1891. It has about 70 houses and a few full time residents. Only eight new houses have been built since the late 1980s. Visitors go there for the peace and quiet, to get away from the rushed life in the cities. The first settlers came across the place in 1876 and decided to establish a village on the farm Tintern, which belonged to Jim Vorster. The sandstone church was built in 1892 and the Rev. Ross would ride his horse from Barkley East to preach to the local. He did this for eight years. By 1900 there were two hotels, according to Mrs. Hannah Rheeders, whose great-grandfather was one of the first settlers in 1876. In the 1970s the low wool prices hit the local economy, and soon hippies came to town until the late 1980s when holidaymakers discovered its peacefulness. Rhodes Hotel is more than 100 years old and still displays the horns of an ox that died of rinderpes in front of the entrance. Every nook and cranny in the area has a story to it. Bobbejaankoppie got its name when Stefanus Naudé of the farm Dunley showed his wife, Jettie, where he wanted to build a road. She commented that not even a baboon woon walk there. Stefanus built his road and named the koppie. At Maartenshoek there is a rock named Ragel se Klip, in honour of a Ragel who met her lover at that rock.

Durban High School turns 140 years old

Durban High School celebrates its 140th anniversary this year. The school started as a one-room school in 1866 and has produced pupils such as Lance Klusener and Hashim Amla, the first Indian to represent South Africa in the Test arena. The present school principal David Magner, is himself a former pupil. Celebrations will include an old boys’ dinner in London.

Chief Tshwane statue to be unveiled

A statue of Chief Tshwane is is to be placed at the entrance of Tshwane City Hall in Paul Kruger Street. It was done by sculptor Angus Taylor, who also created the Solomon Mahlangu statue in Mamelodi. Taylor was able to make contact with some of the Tshwane descendants. Chief Tshwane lived in the 1600s and his sculpture was based on photos of his descendants and drawings done by missionaries. The statue stands 6,2m tall including its base and cost close to R900 000.

Heritage demolishers face heavier fines

The Johannesburg Magistrate’s Court recently fined architect and developer Justus van der Hoven R300 000 after he demolished a listed 1930s heritage building. He also received a five-year suspended sentence. The South African Heritage Resources Agency (Sahra) said that this was the first time that a jail sentence had been imposed for this type of crime and R300 000 is the heaviest fine imposed to date. Dudley Court in Parktown North was built in 1936. The abandoned building was demolished in 2001 by its owner, Justus van der Hoven, to make way for an office park and residential area. Sahra laid a charge against him for demolishing the building they had listed in 1998. Heritage buildings, usually those that are 60 years and older, are classified by Sahra in accordance with the National Heritage Resources Act. Van der Hoven is a director of ARC Architects, the same company that was involved in converting the 68-year old Rosebank Fire Station into offices and in the restoration of another heritage building, Villa Arcadia, in Parktown. Developers who were denied demolition permits often cheated by neglecting the property, allowing them to be vandalised or fall into disrepair. They do this so that their re-application in another year or two would be approved if the building is ruined beyond repair.

Steaming into tourism industry

Creighton, in southern KwaZulu-Natal, has a beautiful railway station. It is built in the traditional Natal veranda style and cost R4.6 million. It is also used as the civic offices of the Ingwe Municipality and a tourist information centre. The Johannesburg-based Bushveld Safari charter train stops at the station on its way to Kokstad and Matatiele in East Griqualand. The old Creighton station was a wood-and-iron colonial building. It has been converted into a museum. The old post office, also on the station platform, became the tourist information centre. A shaded boma and braai facilities are available. Railway tourism was chosen as a major avenue for economic development in the area. Ingwe municipality planned to use another R4-million to buy a three-coach train for excursions between Himeville and Underberg. The neighbouring Ubuhlebezwe municipality (Ixopo) planned to restore an old steam train to draw the Paton Express. The Paton Express operates in the hill country immortalised by Alan Paton in his novel, Cry the Beloved Country.

Donkey cart tours

Donkey tours are available in Nieu-Bethesda, the village that is home to the famous Owl House and written about in Athol Fugard’s play, Road to Mecca. Eight years ago Jakob van Staden started his donkey tour business, taking tourists through the town. Although the business is seasonal, he now earns enough to see him through the lean times. He also transports brides to their weddings and takes campers on three-day trips into the countryside. Jakob is also the organiser of the the popular annual Donkey Derby in November. When he started business, he borrowed money from his son to buy two donkeys (Grys and Ripper) and an old donkey cart for R150. His wife, Betty, was not impressed. His first job was chopping down overgrown bushes and carting the wood which he sold. A local guesthouse owner, Denise Hope, asked him about taking some of her guests on a donkey cart around the village. He was paid R50 for that trip. Jakob got permission from the municipality to transport people around the village and now he has six donkeys, two horses and three carts.

Calling Durban's ghosts

Mark Rose-Christie, based in Port Elizabeth, owns the Mystery Ghost Bus Tours of South Africa. He is looking at running ghost trips around Durban and is looking for information about haunted houses or buildings. If you have any interesting, ghostly tales about Durban, call Mark at 082 567 6554 or fax him at 041 360 1587.

San Culture and Education Centre launched

!Khwa ttu San Culture and Education Centre is an hour's drive from Cape Town and is the only San-owned and operated heritage centre in the Western Cape. It is a joint venture between the San and the Ubuntu Foundation, a Swiss humanitarian initiative dedicated to the development of San peoples in Southern Africa. The San or Bushmen peoples of Southern Africa were the original inhabitants of Southern Africa. Today many still struggle with poverty, malnutrition and discrimination. !Khwa ttus's mission is to promote and protect the San culture and heritage, and to educate the San about business to generate revenue. The Centre provides a location with the necessary infrastructure from where the restitution of heritage to the original owners can be developed. !Khwa ttu is an 850ha nature reserve with views over the Atlantic Ocean and of Table Mountain. It will be fully operational by September and will have training rooms, a restaurant, a gallery with historical and contemporary San photographs, a shop selling Bushman crafts, arts and books, and full conference facilities. Visitors can order a pre-booked picnic to enjoy at the hill-top boma. The San will conduct guided tours along walking trails, to demonstrate how they track game. A tractor-driven wagon is also available. Game on the reserve includes herds of eland, bontebok, springbok and zebra.