ZK Matthews house an eyesore amid bickering over revamp cash
Plans to restore home of SA's first black graduate stall as nobody seems to agree on where the money is coming from
A project meant to honour the legacy of SA’s first black graduate, ZK Matthews, is still nothing more than a rundown house that was once home to him and his family in Alice in the Eastern Cape.
It was declared a national heritage site in 2016, with big plans to renovate and rehabilitate the home. It was to be transformed into a library, a museum and a resource centre for residents.
Instead, there is now a dispute between the department of trade and industry and the National Lottery Commission (NLC) over the allocation of R14m to complete the project.
According to a report, compiled by an official in the department of sports, arts and culture, the house – which is a stone’s throw from the home of the late Eastern Cape premier Makhenkesi Stofile in Alice – is in a bad state.
“In 2014, the house was declared a Legacy project. A commitment was made that the house would be restored and used as resource centre,” according to the report, dated June 25 2018.
“An amount of R4m was set aside by Transnet for the restoration. However, for the complete restoration a total budget of R14m is needed.”
It also says the resource centre will house ZK Matthews’s literature, work and material.
Spokesperson Andile Nduna confirmed the department had received a report on the state of the ZK Matthews house in June 2018.
He said that after assessing the cost of the rehabilitation of the house, the department sought assistance from the department of trade and industry (DTI).
While DTI spokesperson Vusi Skhosana said his department had managed to source R14m from the NLC for the project, the commission denied this.
“The project was delayed by a number of factors. We needed to get authorisation from the Heritage Council of South Africa first. The NLC also needed to send their own engineers to determine costs,” Skhosana initially told Times Select.
“An allocation was done last year  in September and will be paid to a beneficiary in April this year. The NLC also will be responsible for the procurement of the contractor and engineers.”
However, NLC spokesperson Ndivhuho Mafela disputed this.
“The National Lotteries Commission has not funded this project. A proposal was made to assess the possibility of funding, and research is currently under way to that end.
“The outcome of the study will determine the way forward and also assist in determining the amount to be funded. Furthermore, this site was declared a heritage site and as a result the National Heritage Council and other stakeholders will also be consulted.”
Matthews’s daughter and higher education and training minister Naledi Pandor, through her spokesperson Lunga Ngqengelele, said the family was not prepared to comment on the delays.
University of Fort Hare spokesperson Khotso Moabi said the ZK Matthews House is a heritage site of significant importance.
“Its location in Alice and Professor Matthews’s close association with Fort Hare as a staff member and an alumnus provide further impetus for UFH’s committed interest in its preservation and development.”
The university was part of the discussion about the restoration, protection and development of ZK Matthews House.
Transnet spokesperson Molatwane Likhethe said the request for them to help in the restoration project came through the office of the public enterprises ministry, led by former deputy minister Bulelani Magwanishe. “The restoration project did not materialise and therefore no funding was made available.”
Matthews devoted the first part of his life exclusively to education. He enrolled at Fort Hare and in 1923 became the first African to obtain a degree at an SA institution.
He joined the ANC in 1940. Three years later he was elected to the national executive committee and at the same time became a member of the Native Representative Council.
In June 1949, Matthews succeeded James Calata as ANC provincial president in the Cape.
• Department of arts and culture spokesperson Asanda Magaqa said no work has been done yet to restore Winnie Madikizela-Mandela’s Brandfort house in the Free State.
The department had appointed Risimati Consulting Engineers as the new implementing agent for the restoration in November 2017. “Risimati then was responsible for sourcing of contractors to do the actual work. Only two contractors applied, but they did not meet standard set by the department and their quote exceeded the R1.9m which was budgeted for the project,” Magaqa said.
The department had since applied to the national treasury to increase the budget to R3m.