Sunday 2 October 2022

Steve Lunderstedt,

Greetings my fellow health and heritage fanatics,

Before getting to the good news, some bad news. The magnificent Digger’s Memorial in the Oppenheimer Gardens, a memorial that honours all who ever worked on the five big mines of Kimberley, is being vandalised and removed bit by bit. A few months back the Municipality took off the diamond sieve being held aloft by the five diggers to repair. Leaving it overnight on the ground, it was stolen. Probably an inside job because a large truck would have been needed to take the sieve away. Two nights ago one of the five bronze diggers was taken off his perch and his arms removed. We are indeed in a state of disaster…

But all is not doom or gloom in the city of Kimberley, nor in this wondrous land of ours, South Africa. Well, maybe it is, but allow me to highlight a few happenings in the diamond city that are good. That are worth promoting and talking about. I must seriously stop using the word ‘light’ as in ‘highlight’ and in ‘there is light at the end of the tunnel’ as the only high light is the sun – long may it last – and the long dark tunnel is where Eskom is resting.

There is news that is good on the history, heritage and tourism front, believe it or not.

A new walking trail was launched yesterday (Saturday 1 October) linking the old William Pescod School building, now part of the Sol Plaatje University, with the new William Pescod School. The school, part of the historic Malay Camp suburb flattened during the apartheid years, was forced to move to their present location. The walking tour, which can be a circuit or one way, incorporates modern with early Kimberley history. It joins the Belgravia Walk, and the Kimberley North walk as walking attractions. A further two historic walks are in the planning.

This Walk has been launched on the weekend when the past and current pupils celebrate the 135th Anniversary of the William Pescod School, named after the Reverend Pescod who did so much for Kimberley’s Coloured community.

St Patrick’s Christian Brother’s College celebrated their 125th Anniversary a few weeks back, another week long event that brought many hundreds back for a few days to the city they grew up in and with. Kimberley Boys and Kimberley Girls schools also celebrated their 135th anniversary earlier this year.

The Magersfontein battlefield museum is still southern Africa’s top military museum with restaurant facilities (air-conditioned) and a 15 minute movie that brings to ‘light’ the battle proper. Added to that is the recently opened Lodge for overnight or weekend stays. Very modern and most luxurious, it is sure to draw many more visitors to this famous battlefield. On the Modder River battlefield a mere six kilometres south of Magersfontein the former British Army HQ, the Crown and Royal Hotel, is now upgraded and revamped with up-to-date kitchen facilities and modern air-conditioned overnight accommodation. And just down the flowing Riet river is the highly regarded Kimberley Diamond Brewing Company craft beer pub and restaurant. Right on the river, and nearly next door to the Brewery cum pub eatery, is the Riverside Country Club, one of the top caravan and camping resorts in the country.

Potholes in Kimberley, as I write, are being fixed. Where the money came from I am hesitant to ask as R500 million set aside for last year, disappeared after about a month. And suddenly in August this year (2022) the pothole repairers went, and are still going, ballistic. Potholes are fixed but now we have mountains of tarmac pieces on the pavements next to each hole repaired. Luckily we can now drive on the road and not the pavement.

There are new historic memorial tablets around town – a memorial to the Kimberley Light Horse men who died during the siege of Kimberley, a memorial for the first civilian casualty of the Boer shelling is in front of the Catholic Cathedral, and Burger Viviers has a headstone on his grave. (Burger Viviers was killed by a cavalryman’s lance and is the grandfather of Springbok rugby captain Basie Viviers). A tablet has been placed on Major Plumbe’s cairn at Graspan battlefield while famous golfer FG Tait’s cairn at the top of Koodoosberg now has a memorial tablet.

While all the municipal run cemeteries are no longer maintained – or it certainly looks that way – the historic cemeteries are vandalised and have not been viewed by the council employees for years. The good news is that the Ekapa Mining Company spent a small fortune in completely fixing up and renovating the Dutoitspan cemetery. It is fantastic what they achieved and the cemetery today is impressive.

The Rooifontein game reserve, while private, is well worth a visit. All the animals you need other than the big five. Five minutes from town.

The Dronfield and Benfontein game reserves, a mere ten minutes from Kimberley, are run by and owned by the De Beers Company. Dronfield in particular is famed for its wild life including vultures, myriad birds and fantastic selection of antelope. Dronfield too has five star accommodation.

At the Modder River battlefield – known as Tweeriviere to the Boers – there are two new monuments to the Fallen. A truly magnificent memorial to the Boers who died is in the garden of the Crown and Royal hotel, while near the weir is the national war memorial (1899-1902) to the Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders. The Burger memorial was unveiled in 2019.

The Kimberley Club, after closing during the pandemic, is again up and running. Which is fabulous news as ‘we’ believed it would never reopen. It is a seriously historic building and the management are improving weekly with an aim to get back to where the Club was a few years back.

The Constance Hall, turned by the De Beers Mining Company from an engine room into a social centre a century ago, has been closed for a few years, and appeared to be condemned. There is new life and the building is being revamped and will once again be an entertainment/dance hall…soon.

The Old De Beers Mining Company board room where De Beers Consolidated Mines was born, has been vacant and vandalised for some years. A butchery has bought the building and are using it as a training school. All good news and they are keeping the historic interior.

It is believed that the defunct Historical Society of Kimberley will be relaunched later this year or early next year.

The Kimberley Mine museum is still a First World Tourist attraction. Amazing legacy for De Beers to leave for the citizens of Kimberley. All it needs now is a generator to keep the place open during black outs. When a black out occurs at the moment it becomes a poor world attraction.

The William Humphreys Art Gallery is still one of the – if not the – best art museums in the country. Outstanding museum.

There are a few non-franchise tearoom/coffee shops that have recently opened that are exceptional and great value for money. Doc’s at The Half is brilliant, while the others are also good value for money such as GetTogethers.

I have left the best for last which is the Kimberley Africana Research library. I am biased in rating it probably the best research library in the country – I have been to the rest over the decades – but the combination between the staff and the collections will take some beating.

So yes, there is some good news, and now all we need are tourists. And electricity. And water. That however, may be a little bit more difficult to do…

Have a good week ahead, and I thank you.