Avatar photo

By Marizka Coetzer


Dreams buried in rubble– Mamelodi rondavels in ruins

Government pumps millions into its revival – but nothing to show after years of neglect.

Only heaps of rubble and weeds remain on the iconic Mamelodi Rondavels heritage site – placed on the “endangered” list of the government’s heritage portal because of neglect first noted in 2003.

The oldest known buildings in Mamelodi, this small group of rondavels is the historical core of the now defunct Pretoria Bantu Normal College, established in 1947, and the Kolege ya bana ba Afrika – a stark reminder of apartheid’s Bantu education policy.

The college counted Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu as one of its celebrated students.

Wildri Peach, Democratic Alliance Gauteng spokesperson for sports, arts, culture and recreation, placed the blame for its degradation squarely on the ruling ANC government during an oversight visit.

“The government said they spent about R23 million on this facility, with another R1.5 million spent in 2018. By July that year, it became apparent it was vandalised, neglected, used by drug users and largely destroyed by fire.”

Peach said the property was abandoned after the fire destroyed 10 of the 14 rondavels and is now just a heritage loss that would cost a fortune to revive.

Mamelodi resident Thompson speaks to The Citizen newspaper about the iconic Rondavels that are vandalised and are now ruins. Pictured on the 28 September 2022. Picture; Nigel Sibanda

“Perhaps it could’ve been an early childhood development centre or a visitors’ centre could have been built. It could have been a valuable part of our heritage,” Peach said.

Junior Zwane said he walked past the site on his way to school. “I used to come here a lot but stopped after it started looking like this in 2014.” Zwane said the rondavels should be turned into a community centre or hall to benefit the community. “But nothing will happen. People come here to smoke their drugs.

ALSO READ: Tutu was a man of honour, conscience

Sometimes the nyope guys come in here and do their drugs.” Steve Maroleng said the state of the rondavels broke his heart because he remembered praying there. “Now, everything is demolished. It was nice there until 1999, but now it is effed up.”

Thompson Msimango has lived in Mamelodi since 1964. “I remember the smart and important people who lived here; even one of the previous mayors.”

Mamelodi Rondavels that are vandalised and are now ruins. Pictured on the 28 September 2022. Picture: Nigel Sibanda

Msimango said the property was equipped with power and water for the residents.

“But look here, they even stole the pavement,” he said, pointing at a broken pathway. He said it was painful to see rubble where the rondavels previously stood. “I don’t know who to blame. “The municipality; the government; they neglected this place and now it is vandalised.”

Msimango said he would love to see the place restored to its former glory. “This is our heritage and this property is currently unused. Not long and then you will start seeing shacks here – and we don’t want that,” he said. – marizkac@citizen.co.za

Read more on these topics

Archbishop Desmond Tutu mamelodi

Access premium news and stories

Access to the top content, vouchers and other member only benefits