AfriForum urgently demands answers from Metro about Melrose House

In an urgent letter to the City of Tshwane Metropolitan Municipality, AfriForum demands answers concerning the future of the Melrose House. This follows after it has come to the organisation’s attention that this museum has been closed for months for repairs and, according to a notice on its door, will remain closed for an indefinite period.

According to Alana Bailey, AfriForum’s head of Cultural Affairs, a group visited the museum on 31 May to commemorate the signing of the Peace Treaty of Vereeniging. A highlight they were looking forward to, was visiting Melrose House’s dining room, where the treaty was signed on 31 May 1902, thereby putting an end to the Anglo-Boer War. Therefore, it was a great disappointment for the group to find a notice on the front door informing the public that the house was closed.

“On Friday a media report shed light on extensive water damage inside the house. Equally disconcerting are the signs of neglect noticed by the group during their visit outside the building – from the empty fishpond to disintegrating window frames, rust on metal surfaces, damaged gutters, as well as the need for paint all over. Melrose House is a jewel in the heritage landscape of Pretoria and should be preserved at all costs,” Bailey says.

AfriForum demands that the problems preventing the museum from reopening be disclosed. With estimates of the budget required for restoring the building to its former glory, sponsors and donors can get involved. It does not have to deteriorate further because the municipality cannot or does not want to bear the costs on its own. AfriForum is prepared to get involved in such a process. Bailey further emphasised that museums all over the world benefit from a group of “friends” who volunteer to help with maintenance and fundraising. Melrose House had such a group, and it can be revived.

“The current state of affairs is unacceptable and leaves one with the negative impression that the metro does not care about heritage. There are many other examples of museums and historic buildings in South Africa that have been closed indefinitely up until the cost of restoring them becomes insurmountable. Melrose House cannot follow the same path. With community involvement, heritage can be preserved, which is why AfriForum is reaching out and making ourselves available to discuss this matter further with the metro,” Bailey concludes.

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