House of late struggle icon Maxeke falling apart

25 September 2017 - 10:37
By Bafana Nzimande
Charlotte Maxeke's house in Kliptown
Image: Facebook/Jenni Smith Charlotte Maxeke's house in Kliptown

The late struggle icon Charlotte Maxeke's house in Kliptown is falling apart despite promises that it will be turned into a heritage site.

The ANCWL‚ Charlotte Maxeke Foundation and City of Johannesburg announced in April last year that the house would receive a major facelift in a bid to preserve Maxeke's legacy.

A year later‚ a notice board and a blue plaque next to her front door are the only indication that the brick structure once housed a powerful woman regarded by many as the mother of black freedom in South Africa.

The notice board carries the logo of the ANCWL and ValuMax‚ a construction company tasked with construction duties for the project.

When contacted for an update recently‚ ValuMax said the company's CEO (Rocco De Kock) was heading to Namibia and would respond to questions about the Maxeke Heritage House on his return.

The day after he was due to return‚ Letesia Veljoen of ValuMax said: "Our CEO is back in South Africa. As soon as he is back in the office this week‚ I will ask him for his time to assist with the answers on your questions.”

The Maxeke house is presently shared by two families that are not related to the Maxeke family. The families declined to share any details when approached for comment.

Maxeke's great grandson‚ Thulasizwe Makhanya‚ said the Maxeke Foundation was also in the dark when asked about the Maxeke Heritage House.

Makhanya said the house has been rented out by the City and the Foundation does not have authority over it.

Kliptown is experiencing a number of protests relating to housing. The area is still underdeveloped and this does not sit well with Maxeke's family.

"We have been preaching all along that we don't want any isolated development‚ which simply means anything that touches Mme Charlotte's name‚ be it the house or programme‚ must be linked to community development. We can't be associated with a development that will exclude the Kliptown community‚” said Makhanya.

The Foundation said it has tried several times to get a status update from the ANCWL‚ City of Johannesburg and ValuMax but claims all its attempts have failed.

As part of heritage month celebrations‚ the City of Johannesburg took steps to preserve several historic sites. Activities have been conducted at identified historic buildings but the Maxeke Heritage House is not part of this City of Johannesburg Heritage Month project‚ because the house is the responsibility of the department of Gauteng Sports‚ Arts‚ Culture and Recreation.

The department's director‚ Maphata Ramphele‚ confirmed this when contacted about the status of the Maxeke house project.

Ramphele said she will respond via email and questions were sent to her on September 14.

Ramphele has not provided any feedback to date.

She has also not replied to calls and text messages sent to her.

ANCWL spokesperson Toko Xasa could not be reached for comment.

Maxeke led the first protest against the carrying of passes in 1913.

She lived in Kliptown towards the end of her life and was buried in the area in 1939.