21 October 2004
The first phase of the R7-million Nelson Mandela Yard Interpretation Centre in Alexandra – which will include a tourist information office, restaurant and retail outlets – is nearing completion.
Declared a heritage site, foundations have been laid for the building on the corner of Seventh and Hofmeyr street, which is directly opposite the small room Mandela lived in when he first moved from the Eastern Cape to Johannesburg in the 1940s. Some of the yards surrounding Mandela’s room will form part of the precinct.
The interpretation centre will house an interactive exhibition telling the story of the people, ideas and events that shaped Alexandra over the last 100 years, as well as a community archive and resource centre documenting the diverse aspects of Alexandra ‘s history and heritage.
Funded by the Gauteng Tourism Authority, the Department of Environmental Affairs and Tourism, and the Alexandra Renewal Project, the project will create jobs in the construction phase, said Jo-Anne Duggan of the South African Heritage Resource Agency, which will manage the centre.
Long-term benefits, added Duggan, will involve meeting and training rooms that will be used to conduct heritage and tourism-related programmes and will be available to community organisations.
“The interpretation centre will also include visitor facilities such as the tourism information office, a restaurant and retail outlets where visitors can purchase locally produced craft items and other mementoes of their visit to Alexandra”, she said.
Project co-ordinator Zodwa Tlale said the development would open many business opportunities for the residents of Alexandra. “With tourists coming to Alexandra, small businesses will be able to sell their goods.”
Small contractors are already benefiting through the construction of the centre, Tlale added.
To help develop Alexandra as a tourist attraction, 25 sites around the township, which will be marked by information boards, have been listed for inclusion into a Heritage Tour Route. Maps of the route will also be available.
The sites include:
- Mandela’s yard.
- Several schools and houses, including the family home of first lady Zanele Mbeki.
- Freedom Square.
- Kings Cinema.
- Churches, including St Hubert’s Catholic Church and the Twelve Apostles Church of Africa.
- The Jukskei River.
- The Alexandra Clinic.
- The Alexandra Beer Hall.
The first phase of the project is expected to be complete by April 2005.
Source: City of Johannesburg