Bhunga Building - Chamber and offices of United Transkeian Territories General Council
31°35'32.04" S 28°47'14.25" E Alt: 709m
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General Council Chamber and offices of United Transkeian Territories General Council (SA Archt Nov 1939:284)
A Heritage Impact Assessment written by William MARTINSON for OSMOND LANGE ARCHITECTS of the Nelson Mandela Museum – Bhunga Building for the Department of Public Works was conferred an Award for Architecture by the BKIA for 2011 and an Award of Merit by the South African Institute of Architects. The following history and architectural development of the building has been extracted from it. Read citation
THE BHUNGA BUILDING, NELSON MANDELA MUSEUM, MTHATHA
The Bhungai Building was constructed in 1927 on a prominent, generously scaled and elevated site in Mthatha, bounded by Owen Street (to the west), Victoria Street (to the north) and commonage - which was to become Alexander Road - (to the south).
In terms of the hierarchy of roads in the planning of the township of Umtata, Owen Street and Alexandra Road were clearly two of the more important thoroughfares. Both were planned as dual carriageways with a central planted island. Owen formed a generous promenade, sloping down towards the river to the north.
The Market Square, the Town Hall and the Magistrates Court were sited on Owen Street in close proximity to the site of the Bhunga Building. These formally planned buildings, each with their own landscaped gardens, formed a significant civic setting to the small frontier town. The Bhunga building contributed greatly to this measured and defined urban setting.
The large stone built Anglican Cathedral of St John the Evangelist is sited in close proximity to the east. Despite numerous modern large-scale developments in the proximity, and many recent badly planned commercial developments in the immediate surrounding urban fabric, the Bhunga building still provides a fine ordered urban scale within the townscape of Mthatha. The building is also a significant and well-known landmark in Mthatha.
The Bhunga building, as the Council Chamber and Offices constructed for the Transkeian Territories General Council was to become known, was constructed on the western half of Town Block XXXVii in the Township of Mthatha. This Town Block comprised of eight separate erven, numbered consecutively from 384 to 391, all of which had been granted to the Umtata Municipality.
The town block was bounded by Victoria Street to the North, Owen Street to the West, Alexandra Road (the main road to and from Dutywa - now the N2) to the south and by York Street to the east.
The four erven on the west side of the block (Building Lots 384, 386, 388 and 390) on which the Bhunga Building was to be constructed, had been granted by the Crown Colony to the Umtata Municipality and had been transferred to them on 16 July 1894. The four erven comprised a total area of 364 square roods (36.83 hectare) and 86 square feet (7.99 square metres) of land.iii
The grant of these Building Lots to the Municipality was made under Section 10 of Act 15 of 1887, entitled "An Act for regulating the manner in which Crown Lands of the Colony shall be disposed of." The text of the Title Deed associated with the grant reads:
A search of the Deeds Office in Mthatha established the following property transactions related to the four erveniv - arranged by date order:
The last two above noted Deeds of Transfer in favour of The Transkeian Territories General Council were both endorsed by the Deeds Registry in Cape Town on 24 March 1931 in terms of the Vesting Proclamation of 1930. The endorsement – carefully inscribed by hand in copperplate style on the front page of each Deed - stated "In terms of Section 4(2) of Proclamation 279/1930, the within mentioned property vested on the 1st January 1931 in The United Transkeian Territories General Council, established by that Proclamation."
On 5 June 1961, the last mentioned Deed of Transfer for Erf 390 was again endorsed – this time with a rubber stamp with details filled in by hand - namely that "The land herein described is registered as, and must in future be described as Erf No 350 Umtata."
On 13 July 1961, the second last mentioned Deed of Transfer, but in this case only for Erf 388 was again endorsed – also with a rubber stamp - namely that "The land herein described is registered as, and must in future be described as Erf No 349 Umtata."
Condensed history of the United Transkeian Territories General Council (U.T.T.G.C.)
The United Transkeian Territories General Council grew out of the Fingoland District Fund, an organization created under the guidance of Capt. M. S. Blyth, C.M.G., the first Chief Magistrate of the Transkei, (1878 to 1890).v By means of this Fund the inhabitants of 'Fingoland'vi from 1882 to 1893 voluntarily taxed themselves to provide money for the construction and maintenance of roads and for the provision of educational facilities for their children. The principles of this system were derived from the Village Management Board system that was operating at the time in the Cape Colony.vii
In 1894, Cecil John RHODES, the Prime Minister of the Cape Colony, toured the Transkeian Territories. Arising out of this visit it was decided to establish the Transkeian Territories General Council with subsidiary district councils under a formal constitution. The stated aim of the Government was to assist the inhabitants of the Transkei "to advance in knowledge and prosperity". The objects of the Council were inter alia "that (the inhabitants) should have a reasonable voice in the management of the internal affairs of the country" and "that they should be provided with the means of carrying out the local works and other useful services which are deemed necessary and desirable".viii
During 1911 a similar but independent system was inaugurated in the three districts of Western Pondoland. As from 1 January 1931, the Transkeian Territories and the Pondoland General Councils amalgamated into one, the United Transkeian Territories General Council.ix
Every District Council normally met six times a year and consisted of the Resident Magistrate as Chairman and with six or seven members from that District. The Transkeian Territories General Council consisted of the Chief Magistrate of the Transkeian Territories, as presiding officer, the Resident Magistrate of each of the participating districts and nominated or elected community members from these districts. The annual session of the General Council was called during the autumn each year by summons from the Chief Magistrate and usually lasted a fortnight.x
Revenues of the General Council were derived from the rent from quit-rentxi land and from the proceeds of a local tax levied in respect of every hut or dwelling occupied by a person not a quit-rent payerxii. The General Council operated engineering and agriculture departments, made a pro-rata contribution to the cost of treating patients in state aided and mission hospitals and spent considerable sums on soil and water conservation, road building, fencing and the like.
The General Council’s political power was confined to matters affecting the local population, but in 1932 its powers were extended to the consideration of any proposed legislation affecting African. The officials reviewed all resolutions taken by the Council before these were submitted to the Governor General for his information.xiii
Interim Accommodation: 1903 to 1906
The first session of the Transkeian Territories General Council took place in 1903 in the Magistrate's Court in Umtata, presided over by the Chief Magistrate, Walter Stanford. On that occasion the other Magistrates attending were apparently crowded around a single table and the Councillors sat on benches and in the Jury box. By 1905 it was decided that the inconvenience of meeting in the Courtroom could not continue and the Council resolved to procure better accommodation.xiv
Church to Assembly Hall: 1907 to 1927
The Transkeian Territories General Council duly purchased the former St James' Anglican Church in Umtata in 1907 and converted it for use as an Assembly Hall. Two Committee Rooms and some offices for the Engineering staff were also added to the building.xv
A fine archival photograph survives of the Transkeian Territories General Council in the Assembly Hall during their 6th Annual Session in 1909. From this one can determine that the Hall had a simple rectangular nave with exposed scissor trusses and intermittent steel tie bars at wall plate level. The lancet windows had pointed arches that matched the large internal pointed arch over what was presumably the 'altar' end of the nave.
The interior of the Hall was furnished with two parallel rows of narrow tables on the perimeter of the room for the councillors. The two rows of tables returned in opposing quadrants at the entrance of the hall to form a half round or 'horse shoe' arrangement. The internal walls were whitewashed. A low timber balustrade with turned timber newel posts presumably separated the public seating area from the balance of the space.
The perimeter tables flanked a substantial central table that accommodated the resident magistrates from the participating Districts. The committee clerk sat at the altar end of the table, and behind him sat the presiding officer, raised on a low podium. A notable feature of the Council tables was the finely turned legs – suggestive that these were purpose made for use in the Assembly Hall. The delegates all sat on wooden 'Captain's chairs' with turned spindle backs, contiguous curved arm and backrest and a moulded timber seat. A dado rail was applied around the perimeter of the space to prevent the chair backs damaging the wall surface.
In 1912 the Chairman of General Council was A H Stanford; The Secretary and Treasurer was W Carmichael and the Engineer was E J D Brooks.xvi Two years later, in 1914, the Chairman of General Council was W T Brownlee and the Treasurer was W Carmichael.xvii In 1924 W T Welsh - the Chief Magistrate of the Transkeian Territories – was the Chairman; his Chief Clerk, E H W Muller, was the Secretary and Treasurer. The Council Engineer was still E J D Brooks.xviii By 1925 J T Kenyon had been appointed as the Chief Clerk and Accountant, E. J. D. Brooks was now recorded as the Surveyor and J. W. D. Hughes was the Director of Agriculture.xix
William Thomson Welsh was, for a period of 13 years, the Chief Magistrate of the Transkeian Territories. During this period he was Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of the Transkeian Territories General Council. He subsequently became a Member of the Provincial Council for East London (North) following which he was appointed as a Senator to represent the Transkeian Territories in the Senate.xx
Proposed New Council Chamber
It was under Welsh's direction that the Council decided to investigate the proposed building of a New Council Hall and Offices. The preliminary discussions on this item were held during the Session held in 1925, which met for a period of seven days from Wednesday 7 to Thursday 15 April 1926. The Councillors noted that their Hall had been erected circa 1896 and had been in continuous use by the General Council for a period of 25 years.
The Treasurer of the General Council, Mr. M G Apthorp, in his Annual Report for 1924xxi provided a detailed summary to the General Council motivating for a new Council Chamber. Apthorp pointed out that:
Apthorp further advised that a suitable site would be purchased in the vicinity of the Government Buildings and that options had been secured on the identified site.
A Select Committee of the General Council, having considered the report of the Treasurer recommended that the need for erecting a new Council Chamber was imperative; that in view of the likely expense involved, the preparation of plans and designs be submitted to public competition; and that the existing 'horseshoe' seating arrangement be retained in the proposed Council Chamber.
The Estimates for the 1926–1927 Financial Year included an amount of £3 000 for the purchase of a new site. An additional provision of £7 400 was made to enable the commencement of building works and the laying out of the site.xxii Apthorp cautioned that the total cost of a new building 'worthy of the Council' was as yet unknown and that a suitable provision would have to be made for the balance in the Estimates for 1927 -1928, once this figure had been established.
The Council duly supported the recommendation of the Committee and the proposed financial expenditure. It has not been established whether an architectural competition was indeed held, however one of the leading pioneer architectural firms in East London, the practice of CORDEAUX, FARROW AND STOCKS, was subsequently appointed by the Transkeian Territories General Council to prepare a design for the new Council Chamber and Office building.
Design and Documentation of the Bhunga Building
The architects met with Mr. M G Apthorp the Treasurer of the TTGC in Umtata on 11 June 1926xxiii and confirmed in a letter a few days later that they were prepared 'to undertake the commission in accordance with the scale of charges laid down by the Royal Institute of British Architects at the pre-war rate of 5% on the cost of the buildings.' They also undertook to forward 'preliminary sketch designs in the course of a few days.'
On 14 July 1926 the architects duly submitted two alternative Schemes A and Bxxiv to Apthorp. They advised that "Scheme A is drawn up in accordance with the accommodation and particulars furnished at our interview. Scheme B is on a similar line, but with somewhat increased accommodation, laid out on a more generous plan and in many respects superior to Scheme A. Scheme A might be erected for the sum mentioned viz £16 000."
A Municipal Submission blueprint drawing positioned the new building on the corner of Owen and Victoria Streets and only required the two northern most erven.xxv This option might well have been Scheme A, as the building as constructed did not conform to this siting.
The architects met again with Apthorp on 6 August 1926 arising out of which they were requested to provide some additional information, namely the estimated cost of Scheme 'B' and the estimated cost of furnishing the Council Chamber and Galleries. These were provided to Apthorp a few days later, namely £18 250 and £750 respectively.xxvi The total estimate for Scheme 'B' including furnishings came to £19 000.
Apthorp must have spoken to the architects a few days later as they duly confirmed the TTGC's instruction to proceed with Scheme B, and advised that they had commenced with the working drawings and specification.xxvii In mid October 1926, two months after the instruction to proceed with Scheme B, the architects submitted two sets of blue prints of the working drawings to their client.xxviii
The TTGC requested various minor amendments to the working drawings and queried whether 'Grahamstown Tiles'xxix would not be more suitable than corrugated iron as a roof covering. The architects advised that there would be a considerable extra for such tiles and that the roof was in any event not a great factor in the design.xxxi
The architect's design of the building was completed in a defined neoclassical manner. Both the planning and the external elevational treatment were strongly symmetrical, around the centrally placed main Council Chamber. The Owen Street (West) façade was divided into three main bays, the central double storey bay flanked by a single storey bay on either side, set back from the plane of the central bay. Each of the three bays was articulated by a recessed central space; on the two flanking bays the recessed space formed a covered verandah, on the central bay it formed the substantial entrance portico. This further reinforced the triple module established by the subdivision and modulation of the overall façade.
The north and south elevations were provided with very much broader recesses forming substantial covered verandahs. Both of these verandahs were provided with five rectangular supporting columns, forming a six-module subdivision. Both verandahs were accessible from the internal passages and were used as covered external circulation spaces.
The scale and presence of the General Council building was emphasised by the shallow dome (with inset clock) over the centralised double volume entrance portico. The dome had an unusual square plan with each corner truncated to create an octagonal base. The portico on the west facade, with two giant order Doric Columns flanked by an attached Doric pilaster on either side, provided covered access through a large double door into a generous entrance lobby and thence into the Council Chamber. The entrance door was surmounted with a decorative shield – possibly intended to have a painted crest – but this has not been confirmed.
The Entrance Hall directly adjoined a linear 'Crush Hall' from which one entered directly into two large Committee Rooms on either side and into the Council Chamber on the axis of the entrance door. A noteworthy feature of this integrated Hall space was the two freestanding Tuscan columns with their trabeated connections on the underside of the ceiling to the attached Tuscan pilasters on the periphery of the space.
The 'Crush Hall' also gave direct access into two large U-shaped Lounges; that on the north side for the Magistrates; that on the south side for the Councillors. The unusual planning of the two Lounges was as a consequence of the small recessed verandah that intruded into each of the spaces. Each Lounge was provided with a fireplace on the east side of the room. Each of the lounges had an additional door that opened onto the larger verandahs on the north and south side respectively.
The First Floor level was accessed via two generous, symmetrically placed stairs on either side of the ‘Crush Hall’. These stairs gave access onto the first floor lobby into which space an additional three large Committee Room opened. The first floor lobby also gave access onto two public galleries on the north and south sides of the Council Chamber, each one directly over the flanking courtyard verandahs at Ground Floor. A third gallery space on the east side of the building completed the circulation route around the chamber at First Floor and gave access to a third, narrow service stair down to the offices below.
The two lavatory spaces at Ground Floor level – presumably again separately serving Magistrates and Councillors – were only provided with wash hand basins. Access to the two lavatories was via the covered verandahs flanking the sides of the Council Chamber. However a range of five Earth Closets and an adjacent open air Urinal - presumably again separately serving Magistrates and Councillors - were located in each of the two small symmetrically placed outbuildings on the east side of the site. Each of the two outbuildings also accommodated three single garages.
The long axis of the rectangular Council Chamber was oriented east to west and the Chamber was flanked on the north and south sides by a narrow courtyard. Each courtyard was enclosed on three sides by a single storey set of offices arranged in a U-shape around the courtyard. A verandah adjacent to both sides of the Chamber served as a covered external circulation across the length of both courtyards. Originally there was no access from the Council Chamber onto either of the two verandahs, but the original window openings have in the recent past been replaced with glazed outward opening timber French doors.xxxii Two large rectangular reflecting ponds originally flanked either side of the main entrance as part of the formal landscaping of the grounds.xxxiii
Vehicular access onto the site was originally from Owen Street, with a separate entrance and exit at the north and south end of the site respectively. A U-shaped ‘carriage drive’ enabled easy circulation around the rear of the building and provided access to the two sets of garages. A site plan drawing prepared by the Engineering Department of the TTGC in 1931 described the positions of the two outbuildings at the rear of the site and the positions of the two vehicle entrances. The drawing also specified the positions and type of the proposed street trees to be planted on the pavements fronting onto the building on the North and West sides; Jacarandas on Owen Street and American Ash on Victoria Street.
Appointment of Building Contractor and Preparatory Work on site
The architects advised the TTGC that they considered it adequate to restrict their advertising for prospective contractors in East London, Johannesburg, Cape Town, Durban, Port Elizabeth and Bloemfontein.xxxiv On the 1 December 1926, the architects advised that they had inserted advertisements in six different newspapersxxxv inviting prospective tenderers to submit their names by the 14th of December 1926.xxxvi
A total of fifteen applications were duly receivedxxxvii from prospective contractors. The Bills of Quantities and Specification were finally concluded and on the 8 February 1927, copies was submitted to each of the fifteen contractors, with the advise that the drawings could be inspected at the TTGC offices in Mthatha or at the architects’ offices in East London.xxxviii The tenders were to be submitted on or before noon on 28 February 1927.
The architects provided a list of the tenders received to the TTGC on 1 March 1927 and reported that while the lowest tenderer exceeded the preliminary estimate, he was accustomed to carrying out very large works and was recommended by the architects.xxxix A Contract was duly entered into with the lowest tenderer, Mr. James THOMPSON of Johannesburg. The Contract was signed on 19 March 1927 with a Contract value of £22 085 and a Contract period of 12 months. The Contract was signed by G A Walsh on behalf of James Thompson, as Walsh was in charge of Thompson’s East London branch – and was then in East London for the construction of the East London Post Office.xl
The Engineering Department of the General Council had involved themselves in the design of the platform on the site prior to the contract being let. The Council’s Engineer Mr. E J D Brooks compiled a drawing describing the datum level and the platform levels required for the building platform, and included the overall dimensions of the site.
Laying of the Foundation Stone: 1927
During the morning Session of the General Council held on 30 April 1927, the chairman advised those present before adjourning 'that the laying of the foundation stone of the new General Council Chamber would take place at 11am'. The chairman further advised that there 'would be no celebrations and no public invitations had been issued.' He continued that he hoped the Councillors would attend.xli
A large sandstone Foundation Stone, with moulded surround and finely crafted lettering (inlaid with lead insets) had been prepared by a monumental mason prior to the ceremony – transcript below.xlii The architects presented Welsh with a silver trowel for the stone laying ceremony.xliii
THE FOUNDATION STONE
At the stone laying function, Welsh read out a number of telegrams of congratulation to those present, from the South African Prime Minister, General Smuts, Mr A. B. Payn M.L.A., Senator Dr. Roberts, and Mr Gilson, M.L.A.xliv One of the telegrams read that 'the eyes of South Africa are today turned to Umtata'. Welsh further expressed a wish that the Council could meet in their new Hall in the following year.xlv
While W T Welsh was the only person formally credited on the Foundation Stone, he was in fact assisted by one of the Councillors. A motion of thanks, proposed by Councillor Sopela, at the afternoon session following the stone laying, recorded the Council Members' appreciation of the arrangements made by the chairman at the laying of the Foundation Stone but in addition thanked the Chairman for using a Councillor to assist in the laying of the Foundation Stone. Welsh responded that it had always been his intention to have some form of religious service at the stone laying ceremony but at the risk of offending rival congregants from different churches he had decided against it. Welsh had however noticed a minister, Councillor Jacob Manelle of the Xalanga district was present, and had requested him to perform a religious ceremony. Welsh confirmed that Manelle did this at short notice and in a most dignified manner.xlvi
At the Council session on Monday 2nd May 1927 the Chairman again read out the telegram conveying the South African Prime Minister’s congratulations and good wishes on the occasion of the laying of the foundation stone.xlvii
Progress on Site and Completion: 1928
A year later, Welsh, in his opening address to the General Council on Monday 30 April 1928,xlvii advised the Councillors that the building was not yet complete. While it had been the intention that the new building be ready for the 1928 Session, it would now only be complete in August 1928. The building work was clearly well advanced as Welsh continued that 'It can be seen that the (Bhunga) building will be a credit to Umtata and one of which you can be justly proud.' He recommended to the Councillors that they made a point of inspecting the building to satisfy them that the expenditure involved was justified.
R M Fox Smith, Engineer to the General Council, confirmed in his Annual Report for the Year 1927xlix that 'satisfactory progress had been made' by James Thompson and that 'the building is under the supervision of this office.'
In the Annual Report of the Treasurer for the same year, M G Apthorp pointed out that the expenditure incurred on the new Council Building had been transferred from 'Vote VII Section H Etcetera' to 'Vote IV Section D Capital Works' as it was considered that the significant expenditure on this item merited this change. He continued that it would be necessary to make a small provision in the estimates for 1928 – 1929 for the payment of Retention monies that would be due to the contractor as well as for the balance of the architect's fees. This was in the amount of £5 170.
The TTGC took occupation of the building in September 1928. Their Engineering department was undertaking the laying out of the grounds and good progress had been made.l The Council's Engineer R M Fox Smith however reported that the services of a landscape gardener have been sought to advise on a scheme for the improvement of the grounds surrounding the new building.
The Treasurer, A L Barrett, noted in his Annual Report for 1928 that the total cost of the building, including site and furniture, would be nearly £30 000. He pointed out that while this expenditure might be considered excessive, no less than £25 000 of this amount had accumulated since 1905 from the timely manipulation of floating balances of the Council, such balances being placed on fixed deposits.li Thus he continued 'it is not inappropriate to view this handsome pile of buildings as a monument to the admirable financial administration of the Council in its most formative years. It is indeed a fine tribute to the financial methods of the Council that these inspiring precincts have been brought into being without any burden of debt.'
Opening Ceremony: 8 April 1929
The new building of the Transkeian Territories General Council was formally opened at 10am on Monday 8 April 1929 in the presence a large and representative gathering. His Lordship the Bishop of St John's, the Right Rev Dr. Etheridge, conducted the religious portion of the ceremony. The Chief Magistrate, W T Welsh then called upon the Hon Walter Stanford KBE CB CMG to open the building. Following a lengthy speech by Stanford, which included a short history of the General and District Council systems, the Chief Magistrate presented a silver key, appropriately inscribed to Sir Walter Stanford, who then unlocked the main door of the building. Those present then proceeded to inspect the building.lii
In the opening address by the Chairman to the Council Session of 1929 (held from 8 April to 22 April 1929) he noted that the outstanding event of the year had been the completion and opening of the TTGC Building. He recorded the Council’s thanks and appreciation to the architects and builders for the excellent services rendered by them. He stated that "Architecturally this Assembly Hall is characterized by dignity and restraint".
The chairman then invited all the Councillors to a dinner arranged for them at 6h30 that evening in the old hall and hoped that they would have a pleasant evening.liii Dignitaries that were present at the dinner included the Paramount Chief of the Zulus, the Paramount Chief of Tembuland and the Paramount Chief of Western Pondoland.
Councilor E Qamata, at the session held on Tuesday 9 April 1929 proposed a motion thanking the Chairman for the arrangements, the hospitality and the entertainment of the Councillors at the commemorative dinner and he culminated by saying;
Loosely translated from Xhosa this would mean 'Thanks do it again; don’t get tired' or perhaps 'Encore'.
Alterations and Additions: 1934
The first major addition and alteration to the TTGC building took place in May 1934, clearly to accommodate the larger staff complement arising out of the amalgamation the Transkeian Territories and the Pondoland General Councils into one, namely the United Transkeian Territories General Council.
The work comprised a substantial extension to the east side of the building creating a covered drive way at Ground Floor and a large set of offices at First Floor to accommodate the Engineering Department. The First Floor level was supported on a series of free standing rectangular plastered columns and the First Floor level matched the existing First Floor level on the West side of the Building.
One of the two ground floor entrances on the East side of the building i.e. that in line with the verandah on the north side of the Council Chamber was closed and the short flight of external stairs and double door with arched fanlight removed. The passage space, the narrow room alongside it and two small offices were consolidated into two large offices; one for a Clerk, the other for Records. The small space beneath the existing staircase was converted for the installation of an 'Oxydol' fittingliv and a wash hand basin. A minor change was also made in the south-east quadrant of the building where a passage was created to provide a separate access to three rooms, rather than the enfiladedlv access that had existed till then. This change created a Chairman's Retiring Room and two separate Offices for the Agriculture department.
The triangular ventilator was reinstated to the east as part of the extended hipped roof over the new First Floor portion. The moulded parapet with clay tile capping was also extended around the perimeter of the new extension. The submission drawing indicated that the parapet was concrete and it is likely that the deeply coved cornice was cast in situ. The extension served to symmetrise the south and north elevations by the creation of a matching bay to the east of the Council Chamber. A note on the drawing advised that the doors and windows were to be purpose made to match the existing.
The submission drawingslvi for this work were directly based on the original drawings prepared by CORDEAUX, FARROW and STOCKS, although in this case it appears that no architect was involved. The submission drawing was signed by the TTGC's Engineer, Rhodes MacPherson Fox SMITH and was drawn by his deputy Robert Munro Cameron SKINNER. The design and details closely matched those used in the original building. Both submission drawings were stamped and signed by G Gale, the Town Clerk of Umtata on behalf of the Municipality. The erection of the proposed additions and alterations was authorized subject to compliance with the Building Regulations of the Municipality.
Visit of the Governor-General of the Union of South Africa: c 1947
The Right Hon. Gideon Brand van Zyl, the Governor-General of the Union of South Africa, visited Umtata circa 1947 and was hosted at a function held at the Bhunga building. Van Zyl was the first South African born holder of this office and served from 1945 until 1950.lvii A temporary podium with large umbrella was erected adjacent to the north verandah leading off the Magistrates' Lounge. Buntings were hung from the building parapet and dome, and the whole assembly appears to have had a festive air.
Transkeian Territorial Authority: 1956
Subsequent to the dissolution of the UTTGC, the Bhunga Building accommodated the Transkeian Territorial Authority. The as-built drawings prepared in 1961 for the Transkeian Territories Administration, prior to Transkei obtaining independence; provides a clear picture of the building and the accommodation it provided, following the major additions and alterations carried out in 1934.
Self Government of the Transkei in 1961
The second major extension to the building took place after the granting of self-government to the Transkei in 1961 at the request of The Territorial Authority under the chairmanship of Chief Kaiser Matanzima. The request was given legal effect in terms of the Transkei Constitution Act, No 48 of 1963, passed by the South African Parliament.lviii
On 20 November 1963 the voters in the Transkei elected their own representatives to the Transkei Legislative Assembly (TLA), which replaced the Transkeian Territorial Authority. The TLA was a mixture of the traditional system and modern democracy and was premised on the basis of the South African government's policy of 'separate development'. Provision was made for a total of 75 chiefs and paramount chiefs together with 75 elected members. The term of office of the TLA was limited to five years.lix
The ceremony to open the Transkei Legislative Assembly was scheduled to commence at 10H00 on 11 December 1963.lx An hour before hand, a crowd of more than 1 000 people had gathered in front of the building. Uniformed policemen flanked the entrance steps and the 34 strong Police band from Orlando had set up to one side. Two imbongi'slxi praised Matanzima's achievements with traditional hyperbole and the crowd greeted this chanting with repeated cries of "Ah Daliwonga."
On arrival, Chief Matanzima stood at the top of the entrance steps, together with by Mr. M. D. C de Wet Nel, a member of the South African Parliament and the Minister of Bantu (sic) Administration and Development and Mr. J H Abraham, the Commissioner-General of the Xhosa National Unit. The police band then played "Die Stem" and "Nkosi Sikele Afrika" the national anthem of the Transkei. The police and military officers present saluted the playing of the anthems.
Before moving into the Chamber, the official procession lined up behind the mace-bearing Sergeant-at-Arms, Mr. S Mkatini (in black uniform with red waistband and ruffled white lace cravat) and the Chairman, Mr. N J Busakwe (wearing purple-faced robes with leopard skin trimming). The procession entered the Chamber to a fanfare of trumpets.
The five Members of the Transkei Cabinet were all present at the opening ceremony, namely: Chief Jeremiah Moshesh (Minister of Interior); Mr. George M. M. Matanzima (Minister of Justice); Mr. Bennet B. Mdledle (Minister of Education); Mr. Matanda S. Mvusi (Minister of Roads and Public Works); and Mr. Columbus Madikizela (Minister of Agriculture and Forestry);
Some of the Transkeian Paramount Chiefs attended the ceremony, notably Victor Poto of Western Pondoland; Sabata Dalinyebo of Tembuland; Botha Sigcau of Pondoland and Zwelidumile Sigcau of Gcalekaland. The only women member of the House, Miss Lilian Twetwa of Emboland, was also present.
The number of representatives of Traditional Tribal Authorities,lxii elsewhere in South Africa also attended the ceremony: Chief T.T. Pilane: Chairman of the Tswana TTA; Chief Patrick Mphephu: Chairman of the Venda TTA; Chief Mhinga: Chairman of the Tsonga TTA. Cyprian Bekuzulu, the Paramount Chief of the Zulus and Chief Bethoen II: Paramount Chief of Bechuanaland also attended.; Mr. M. C. Botha: Chairman of the Native (sic) Affairs Commission and Mr. C. B. Young: Secretary for Bantu (sic) Administration and Development represented their respective Departments.
Other significant guests at the ceremony included Mr. Horace Byrne, The American Consul; Mr. J Esherwood, British Consul; Mr. Vic Leibrandt, former Chief Magistrate of the Transkei; Mr. T Gray Hughes, M.P. for the Transkeian Territories and Dr. Khotso Sethuntse, reputed millionaire herbalist from Kokstad.
The Chairman of the House formally swore in the Chief Minister and the five members of the Cabinet. The Chief Minister took the following oath:
The five Cabinet Ministers then took a similar oath, before de Wet Nel gave a 70-minute speech in English and Afrikaans - translated at suitable intervals into Xhosa.lxiii
A commemorative bronze plaque recording the extensions to the Bhunga Building to accommodate the Legislative Assembly was worded in Xhosa, English and Afrikaans. The plaque was installed on the right hand side of the entrance portico, set into the panel directly beneath a large arched window. A transcription of the English wording of the Commemorative plaque is provided for easy reference below:
COMMEMORATIVE PLAQUE UNVEILED BY DR. THE HONOURABLE M. D. C. DE WET NEL, M.P.
The architect for the extensions was Karl Johannes JOOSTE of Pretoria. JOOSTE was born on 16 October 1925. At the age of 38 he was presumably already well connected to the then SA Government administration, to have obtained this commission in Mthatha. JOOSTE passed away eight years after the completion of the Bhunga extensions, on 12 February 1971, at the relatively young age of 46 years, predeceasing his parents and his wife. His residential address at that time was 109 Johan Rissik St, in Waterloo Ridge, Pretoria.lxiv
The additions designed by JOOSTE comprised two u-shaped wings, each wing arranged around a courtyard adjacent to what had been the columned verandahs on the north and south facades respectively. The building now had four separate courtyards. The two minor verandahs to the original two flanking wings on the main west façade - facing Owen Street - were removed and the space incorporated into the adjacent rooms.
The new wing on the north side accommodated the natural fall in the ground by the insertion of a generous basement accessed via an enclosed staircase from the new courtyard. A secondary entrance to the basement was provided on the east side. The existing internal corridors to the east and west of the Council Chamber were continued into both new wings and those at the north end exited the building via a shallow external lobby onto steep flights of concrete stairs ending on the pavement. The corridors on the south side similarly exited via a shallow external lobby onto pathways ending on the pavement.
Stylistically the extensions were a close match of the detailing of the existing single storey wings, with some minor refinements and simplification. Both new wings projected slightly beyond the line of the existing external facades, thereby creating a distinct visual break between the old and the new work.
Bunga to Assembly: A National Film Board Production: 1963
During the months of April and May of 1963, Werner Grünbauer of Protea Film Productions of Pretoria filmed the opening sessions of the Territorial Authority in 35mm color with a synchronized sound track. This work was undertaken on behalf of the National Film Board (NFB) who in turn was following a directive from the Department of Information.lxv The film was intended 'as a historical record of events which took place in the Transkei' but it would 'of course be used for other purposes as well'.
Protea Films did not proceed with the editing of the film sequences and on 5 June 1964 Grünbauer agreed to the sale of the 3 000 feet of Eastman color picture negatives to the NFB in the amount of R3 223.09. Four days later the NFB submitted a quotation to the Secretary for Information for the in-house editing and sound production of a 35mm, ten-minute color documentary, in English, titled "Bunga to Assembly" in the amount of R1 806.03. The quote was duly accepted and work proceeded.lxvi
The approved script included extracts from the speeches made on the occasion of the last meeting of the Bhunga held on Tuesday 14 May 1963. Mr. Hans Abraham, the Commissioner General for the Xhosa National Unit representing the South African Government was present, as was Chief Kaizer Matanzima and other Councillors.
Transkei Independence: 1976
Subsequent to independence granted to the Transkei in October 1976, the Bhunga Building accommodated the Republic of Transkei Parliament, the Council Chamber being used for the sittings of the Parliament.
The President of the Republic of the Transkei was Paramount Chief K D Matanzima, born in Amati in the St. Mark’s District of the Transkei. He qualified as an attorney in 1948 and by 1954 he had been elected as a member of the United Transkeian Territories General Council. He was appointed Chairman of the Transkei Territorial Authority in 1961, the Chief Minister of the Transkei 'homeland' in 1963, and Prime Minister of the Republic of the Transkei when Transkei chose independence from South Africa on 26 October 1976.lxvii By 1978 he had been appointed as President of the Transkei.
During this period the Bhunga Building also accommodated the Transkei Postmaster General and the Transkei Treasury. The independent status of the Transkei was however not recognized outside South Africa and the most well known international recognition was through the listing of the Transkei postage stamps in the Stanley Gibbons annual catalogue.lxviii
Return to Democracy: 1994
Reforms to the apartheid policy in South Africa in the 1980s failed to stop mounting opposition. In 1990 President F W de Klerk began negotiations to end apartheid, culminating in multi-racial democratic elections in 1994, which were won by the African National Congress under Nelson Mandela.
During the transition back to Local Government, the Bhunga Building housed the Kei District Council,lxix which was to become the King Sabata Dalinyebo Local Municipality.lxx
Changes to the Bhunga Building over time
Various inappropriate modifications have been carried out to the Bhunga building particularly within the courtyard spaces by the enclosure of the courtyard verandahs to create additional office space.
The external facades have unfortunately been coated in sections with a textured wall coating, which has completely obscured the clarity of the finer moldings and edges.
The majority of the external windows have had wrought iron burglar bars added which obscure the original lines of the fenestration.
The original low wrought iron perimeter railing has been replaced at the north and south ends with a more substantial railing to improve the security.
Numerous security cameras and alarm beams have been added to the facades often in expedient positions. Various air-conditioning units have been bolted to the façade in places.
The trees planted in the formal gardens surrounding the Bhunga building now detract from the setting of the building due to their size and their ability to screen views to the building from the immediate surrounds.
The large modern advertising signage placed at the two street corners detracts from the setting and context of the Bhunga building.
A recent installation of a water storage system using numerous green plastic tanks in the rear courtyard has detracted significantly from the setting of the building.
The Bhunga Building re-used as The Nelson Mandela Museum: 2000
Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela served 27 years in prison, spending many of these years on Robben Island. Following his release from prison on 11 February 1990, Mandela supported reconciliation and negotiation, and helped lead the transition towards multi-racial democracy in South Africa. Mandela was elected in 1994 as the first democratic President of South Africa.
Mandela received numerous gifts from the South African and international community, in recognition of his enormous contribution to freedom, peace and democracy.lxxi Mandela accepted these gifts, received before and after his appointment as President of South Africa, on behalf of the South African community and was determined that they be displayed near his home village of Qunu in such a way as to be accessible to the people.
The initial idea of building a single museum in Qunu then evolved into the idea of creating separate museums at three separate sites, namely Mvezo, Qunu and Mthatha.
The Bhunga Building began functioning as one of the site of the Nelson Mandela Museum on 11 February 2000, ten years to the day after his release from prison. An all day programme of speeches, celebration and feasting marked the occasion of the opening of the three museum sites. The Department of Arts, Culture, Science and Technology hosted the celebrations. The Minister, Ben Ngubane, said at the opening that the government’s stated aim in developing the Nelson Mandela Museum was to celebrate Madiba's legacy. It was also to tell the story of his struggle and his life, to exhibit the local history and to encourage development, tourism and business in the region. The project cost – including the expenditure related to the opening ceremony – was R11 million.lxxii
The museum’s stated vision is "To be a living museum that embraces development and is a fitting tribute to the legacy of Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela, a product of ubuntu".lxiii
The permanent exhibition was recently completely restructured in a joint venture between the Apartheid Museum, the Nelson Mandela Museum and the Nelson Mandela Foundation. Opened on 30 October 2009lxxiv by Professor Kader Asmal, the spaces were converted into modern, interactive museum environments. The front façade was enlivened by 'wrapping' the two freestanding columns of the portico with images of Mandela's face. A large photographic imagelxxvi of Mandela, the full width of the portico, was fixed at the base of the dome.
A major new temporary exhibit has been installed in the Council Chamber. Titled 'In Conversation' this exhibition compares the lives of Luthuli and Mandela, using a 'stage-set' approach to reinterpreting the space. It traces the historical layout of the 'Council' chamber in re-instating the positions of the Councillors' tables. These are then juxtaposed against 'conversations' amongst comrades in the ANC and others that have would have been previously impossible in this room.lxxvii
Only about 40% of the available space in the Bhunga Building is currently being used for exhibition space. The remaining space is either used for office accommodation or is standing vacant and unused.
HISTORIC ASSOCIATIONS AND MEANINGS
The preliminary study of the history of the Bhunga Building contained in this report demonstrates the site to be particularly rich in historic associations and meanings, including:
STATEMENT OF SIGNIFICANCE
The Bhunga Building forms part of the National Estate, as it is considered a place of cultural significance, i.e. a heritage resource, based on:
Text extracted from the HERITAGE IMPACT ASSESSMENT prepared for the PROPOSED MUSEUM UPGRADE of the BHUNGA BUILDING, NELSON MANDELA MUSEUM, MTHATHA in September 2010 by WILLIAM MARTINSON, OSMOND LANGE ARCHITECTS & PLANNERS.
Campion, H.: The New Transkei, Valiant Publishers, Sandton, Johannesburg, 1976.
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