Bethany Mission Complex, a national monument in the southern Free State, is in a state of disrepair. This comes after reports of the original missionary school building almost caved in due to recent heavy rainfall. According to Frans Kraalshoek, Chairman of the Free State Griqua Council, their hands are tied as they are prohibited from altering the national monument.
Kraalshoek said that recent heavy rains have caused further damage to the building of the first ever school in the history of the province. “There has been some corrugated iron placed in the inside but now there are reports that the place is falling apart,” he elaborated.
The chairperson mentioned that the Free State Department of Sport, Arts, Culture and Recreation prohibits anybody from repairing the buildings. “A building that is more than 60 years old such as that building, cannot be touched by anybody, to rebuild it or anything like that. This is because of its heritage identity. There has to be a specialised contract in order to do that,” he explained.
“In the past we have complained about this so that we could be able to rebuild it ourselves but based on the heritage site being identified by the department they do not allow just anybody to rebuild or restructure the place,” added Kraalshoek. The complex includes a missionary school as well as a church that was established in the 19th century. The church structure has reportedly also sustained disrepair such as broken windows and collapsing pillars.
Bethany has one caretaker, a pensioner who has been looking after the grounds for over 20 years. “He has been looking after that heritage site for the past 24 years and he has been taking care of it. We wrote to the department to say that it cannot be right that an old man is working on it, looking after it, protecting and preserving it,” said Kraalshoek.
However, according to Tankiso Zola, Director of Communications at the Department of Sport, Arts, Culture and Recreation, Bethanny is not under their custodianship. “I have been able to confirm with relevant officials in the department that the site does not belong to the department but to the stated church. It is therefore a private institution which has to be maintained by the owners,” he said.
“The fact that it has been declared as a heritage site does not mean that the department/government is a custodian thereof,” explained Zola.