Waaihoek to be included in Bloem heritage route

Waaihoek Wesleyan Church where the African National Congress was founded in 1912.

The Mangaung Metro Municipality, along with the Free State Department of Sport, Arts, Culture and Recreation and United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), are seeking to establish Waaihoek as a recognised heritage site. This is according to municipal spokesperson Qondile Khedama, during a walkabout of the reconstruction of the Bloemfontein City Hall recently.

“One of the things that we as the municipality are lobbying for is that Waaihoek becomes an international heritage site. UNESCO, ourselves and the Department of Arts and Culture are interacting so that it can happen.”

In 1861 Waaihoek was one of the first areas in Bloemfontein that was demarcated for non-white people, being designated to Coloured people. Waaihoek Wesleyan Church was also the where the African National Congress was founded by John Dube, Pixley Seme, and Sol Plaatje among others in 1912.

Khedama stated during the walkabout that the municipality intends to create a “heritage package”, which includes the city hall. “We want to build a package as the city. We want the entire street here to form the package of the city. We are working hand in hand with the department in making sure that the heritage route is realised. Once this construction project is finalised, we will start rolling out the heritage route,” he said.

Reconstruction of the city hall after it was destroyed by a fire in 2017 is well underway. The project will be finished in December 2019. Khedama explained that materials for the reconstruction would have to be imported in order to keep the heritage and integrity of the building intact.

“The most critical thing that was needed for the building was material that came from outside South Africa. The project leaders wanted to restore the building to what it was. Wood for floor was procured from Zimbabwe while roof tiles came from Italy. The finished product will be the same City Hall, but revamped. As much as we were sad when the structure collapsed we think it will look even better,” Khedama explained. – Nomaqhawe Mtebele