International author and historian Mr Charles Leach from the Zoutpansberg Skirmishes Route addresses members of the Communal Property Association (CPA) during a meeting to discuss the road ahead to revive and preserve their cherished heritage site at Fort Edward. Photo: Thembi Siaga.
Members of the Mavungeni Communal Property Association (CPA) convened at Mavungeni, near Vleifontein, on Friday, 11 November, to discuss the path forward in reviving and preserving what they believe should be a provincial heritage site—the historic Fort Edward.
Fort Edward served as the base from which the Bushveld Carbineers, led by Breaker Morant, launched attacks on the Boer Commandos during the Anglo Boer War. The Bushveld Carbineers, later renamed the Pietersburg Light Horse Unit in 1902, were dispatched to the then Northern Transvaal to assert control over the region and suppress the remaining Boer resistance.
After the war, Fort Edward briefly functioned as a prison. In 1909, the site of the fort was utilised by the South African Constabulary, leading to the decision to alienate the land. Several structures, including stables and a jail, were constructed. In 1969, the steel fort was donated to the Municipality of Louis Trichardt and relocated to its current position in town.
During last Friday’s meeting, local residents expressed concerns about encroachments by some residents who had begun constructing houses on the historical site that was once home to the steel fort. Some suggested that Fort Hendrina, as it is now called, should be relocated from its current place next to the municipal library in Louis Trichardt, back to Mavungeni.
As discussions unfolded, CPA members emphasised the collective responsibility of each community member to preserve and protect the historic site, which has suffered severe vandalism in recent years.
Mr Samuel Shirinda, the chairperson of the Mavungeni CPA, described the meeting as fruitful, emphasising the need for the community to stand united in reclaiming their past and becoming custodians of their history. He noted that the site, once a beacon of history, had fallen victim to the hands of time. The community aimed to determine actions for preservation and development while also educating people about the historical significance of the site.
International author and historian Mr Charles Leach from the Zoutpansberg Skirmishes Route affirmed the importance of protecting the history of the heritage site for future generations. He emphasised the site’s potential to attract tourists from other countries and encouraged residents to preserve it. Further meetings with stakeholders are planned to chart the way forward for the preservation and development of the site.
Date:19 November 2023
Thembi Siaga started as an intern during 2021. He assisted with video photography and editing. He also produced numerous small documentaries, focusing on the Vhembe region and its people. Currently he works as a freelance journalist, covering stories in the Elim area.
Thembi studied at the Tshwane University of Technology, where he completed his diploma in Journalism in 2021.