Port Elizabeth is still close to my heart as I was raised there. I only relocated to Joburg after completing my articles as there were no work opportunities there. Due to the numerous protest actions nationally mainly as a result of service delivery – poor, non-existent or shoddy – it is a daily occurrence throughout South Africa. Due to the number of these riots, they receive little publicity. For me this one did. My paternal grandmother Daisy Elizabeth McCleland, the family matriarch, lived at 99 Albert Street which judging by the photographs is slightly off the epicentre of some of these riots.
For those who are familiar with Port Elizabeth like I am, these photographs are indicative of a society that is non-functional. Like many cities in the new South Africa, Port Elizabeth is plagued with rampant corruption, crumbling infrastructure and egregious incompetence.
As one of the oldest cities in South Africa it has a slew of historical buildings with the area adjacent to the CBD being a veritable treasure trove of historical buildings. As the current administration displays no enthusiasm for the perseveration of this heritage, no efforts are being undertaken to protect it. Iconic 19th century architecture is rare in Africa, this could serve as a tourist drawcard much like the French sector in New Orleans.
With myopic minds in charge possessing rapacious hands to boot, this opportunity to capitalise on this asset will not be monetarised. It might not represent the wilful destruction of historical buildings such as is being evidenced by ISIS’s actions in Syria and Iraq, but the end result result is the same.
Only when will the city bemoan and lament the fact of its destruction.