We are all set to commemorate the centenary of the Rand Revolt of 1922 hopefully not in the rain. The Strike started on 10th January 1922 when the white miners were told their daily pay would be docked by a third – by 5 shillings from 14 or 15 shillings. It is inconceivable that any industry would try that drastic a cut in pay which combined with the threat of more than 2500 losing their jobs altogether certainly made the proposal unacceptable. The threat came not from the black miner, but from the mining companies who intended replacing many white miners with black men who would be paid far less. Refusal to negotiate on the part of the Chamber of Mines which was backed by the government of the day led to the violence that erupted all over the Rand.
There really isn’t anything to celebrate. We are simply remembering and remembering at a time when Russia is inflicting hideous violence on Ukraine. We can’t simply avoid our history because there is so much of it we don’t like. But we are drawing attention to how much of it took place so close to the centre of Johannesburg. There was even an outpost in Craighall when the strikers took over the police station. The little building is still standing today along Jan Smuts Avenue. But most of the action was in Brixton, Fordsburg, Newlands, Langlaagte or on the east side of town in Doornfontein.
We will be erecting a number of blue plaques, but the main focus will be unveiling a Memorial on 12th March in Braamfontein Cemetery which is generously funded by the JHF, SJ de Klerk and the City of Johannesburg. We have a number of soldiers and policemen buried there, as well as at least 7 strikers in unmarked graves and the three Hanekom brothers executed for something they hadn’t done. The Transvaal Scottish who were heavily involved both at Dunswart and the Battle of Brixton Ridge have offered a piper for the occasion. Other regiments who were involved will be represented.
From Monday, 28th February an exhibition put together by Jim Findlay and Andre du Plessis will be opened at the Rand Club. There is no entrance fee so, when you have a moment please walk in and view it. Not open on Saturday afternoon or Sunday throughout March. There are lots of photographs, stamps, certificates and a surprising collection of memorabilia. Truly worth the trip to the Club.
We launch the Centenary with the Virtual Tour by SJ de Klerk who, with Sarah Welham, has done intensive research into the graves of those involved.
Other news on the heritage front has NOT been good. The Johannesburg Property Company which owns the house in St Andrew’s Road in Parktown which so many members have noticed being stripped, was well aware that Silverstone was moving out, but failed to put a guard there or even ask the JMPD to monitor it. It is not surprising that within days all electrical wiring had gone, then doors and windows, floorboards went next and lastly the roof sheeting. Since 20th January we have complained to the City Council and to the Heritage Authority – PHRAG. An irate Ward Councillor for Parktown, Bridget Steer, confronted the demolishers alone and called for surveillance from JMPD. It took the latter more than an hour to respond but they did eventually arrive on the scene.
Then we received a report that the Bezuidenhout homestead in Bezuidenhout Park was in danger. The electrical cables had been dug up inside the boundary fence. This time the City reacted and Eric Itzkin brought Councillor Harris out to see this the condition of this, the oldest house in Johannesburg still standing. As Councillor Harris is a member of the Mayoral Committee and responsible for both Parks and Heritage this was a most important site inspection.
Next came an appeal from Roodepoort where a wood and iron miner’s house carefully preserved for many years by the Roodepoort municipality has been invaded and is gradually falling to pieces. Ideally it should be moved. But where can it go and at what cost?
There is a trickle of good news. School tours have started up again and we have been welcoming schools to Holy Family College where they learn to write with a dip pen spilling much ink in the process! But their clothes are protected by sailor suit tops and pinafores so the damage is not irreversible. School tours to Museum Africa have also started – those are fully sponsored and are offered to schools which cannot afford trips outside school premises. Sadly we will be saying goodbye to Stacey Jirivengwa who has taken over running the school tours. She has a full-time job using her skills in languages so we cannot begrudge her leaving us after many years with us in the Research Centre and as a teacher for our schools’ programme.
Our members are learning to use Quicket which is saving Eira a lot of time and she and husband Adrian are in the process of applying for visas for Australia where they will hopefully be flying to in April. Our new Office Manager and General Secretary, Barbara Cron, has been appointed after interviews with four excellent applicants.
Our new website is up and running and our tour team of three Davids and Monique have organised a great variety of tours. Thanks to David Forrest we have ten experienced tour leaders starting training to become registered tour guides so that we meet government regulations and satisfy insurance demands for registered guides on each tour. David Fleminger has standardised notices of tours so we can feed Facebook and the website very promptly, and members will soon become accustomed to the new format. David Gurney has compiled an exciting programme of tours and found guides for each while Monique handles wording and all our contracts.
So we are certainly better organised and are spreading the work load. Kathy has Shelley to provide spreadsheets for the many blue plaques we plan to erect, and Diana has managed to put everything into the cloud so we can all sleep better at night knowing our enormous data base is safe. We welcome Jannie on board to add to our archives.
Mary Boyeasse and I are two thirds of the way through the Fleming Collection and are most grateful for Brian McKechnie’s help in this work. We have found some lovely drawings and fine perspectives. The latter were all done by Bernard Cooke. The number of Anglican churches designed by FLH Fleming is astounding ranging from small chapels in villages to the grand Cathedral in Salisbury (now Harare).
The work of the three Joint Plans Committees continues on Zoom. It is much easier to circulate drawings on line, but I for one miss the personal contact of meetings face to face. Sadly Roger Chadwick passed away. He will be sorely missed by the JPC East.
Flo Bird – Chairman