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Weapons cache halts building

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Major Weatherly
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« on: January 29, 2010, 05:21:43 am »

Jan 28 2010 4:00PM      

Weapons cache halts building

AMAZING FIND: But the hundreds of bayonets and gun barrels are holding up work on Lovedale FET College in King Williams Town. Picture: ALAN EASON


WORK on a multi-million rand construction project at Lovedale Further Education and Training College in King William’s Town has not progressed since an arms cache was found at the site last year.

The R1.2 million three-phased classroom development was stopped in November after workers digging foundations came across a massive cache of Anglo-Boer War weapons.

Experts believed the find, which consisted of rifle barrels, bayonets, swords and burnt wooden rifle butts, was buried on the site by the British army after the war ended in 1902.

They said the college is situated on the site of the old Military Reserve, which traces its origins to 1847 when Sir Harry Smith, Governor of the Cape Colony, established King William’s Town as the administrative and military capital of British Kaffraria.

They said the weapons were buried by a British regiment after they abandoned the Military Reserve in 1913.

Amathole Museum curator of history Stephanie Victor suggested turning the cache into a tourist attraction.

“The institution should either cordon-off a section in their building, even if it’s by putting a glass floor over these weapons like they did at Golden Acre Shopping Mall in Cape Town.

“This would be an interesting tourist attraction for King,” she said.

She added that the weapons had rusted and her museum already had similar weapons.

Lovedale FET College manager Nicky Dickson said the delay by the SA Heritage Resources Agency (Sahra) to issue a certificate to continue with digging and construction work was costing them time and money.

“We stand a risk of losing a government subsidy as there is a cut-off time and this project could go down the tubes,” he said.

“The project is supposed to be completed in February this year, but this is still hanging like a sword over our heads.

“ It’s a sad story because by failing to complete these classrooms we’ll lose nearly 100 students and we’ll have to cut our staff complement.”

Dickson said they had spent a lot of money employing an archaeologist to perform an assessment of the site.

“We still don’t know what is going to happen to these weapons,” he said.

The institution was instructed by Sahra to cordon-off the site and immediately cease construction.

They were also told that an archaeologist would conduct research on the site and an excavation of the weapons would follow.

Sahra archaeologist Mary Leslie dubbed the find at the time as one of the country’s most interesting historical discoveries.

On Friday, Leslie said they had received a report from the archaeologist which recommended a phase two assessment.

“A review comment based on the archaeologist’s report will be handed over to the institution,” she said.

But Dickson said employing an archaeologist to conduct a phase two assessment would add to their costs.

“There are a lot of technicalities involved in this … the builder could say their time for construction is over and they want their money without construction being completed.

“This issue is taking a long time (and) we could lose out.” — By MSINDISI FENGU,
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