Dear Mr Naidoo
It is with utmost urgency that I draw to your attention the proposed development of Rietfontein Farm 61IR, situated bordering Linksfield Rd, Club Str, N3 highway and Modderfontein Rd. This area contains the Site of the Historic Rietfontein Isolation Hospital.
There is intent to develop this land into an inclusionary development. Unhappily it contains the graves of some 7000 people who have perished from some of the worst plagues known to mankind. Only a very small portion of these graves can actually be located. There are two missing cemeteries, the Plague Cemetery and the Jewish Cemetery. We have just managed to find burial record for some of the graves in the Jewish cemetery but not the location there of. Most of the other records have all been destroyed and the grave stones and markers have been stolen or smashed. Many of the graves had wooden crosses that have been burned in the veld fires. In addition there has been extensive illegal dumping on the site.
In addition to the risks associated with opening up the graves of people who perished from Smallpox, we have the historical background that is also of utmost importance and needs to be protected. This is where I am appealing to the a Indian Community to come forward to represent Ghandi s history and preserve his contribution and memory in this area. If it weren't for his intervention, many of the descendants of Johannesburg wouldn't be here today.
We are a very small action group and have the backing of the Heritage Society of South Africa. I am sure that you are aware of Ghandi s role in the identification of the outbreak of the Plague in Johannesburg as well as the fact that had it not been for his quick intervention in isolating the victims and bringing it to the attention of the authorities at the time, the spread would have been absolutely catastrophic. This was as a result of the apartheid regulations in place at the time. He was instrumental in getting many of these Indian people to be treated at Rietfontein Hospital and worked closely with the authorities. In addition, we have the added association of Desmond TuTu who was also treated there. The buildings are of historical value as are the lives of the Drs and nurses that worked there. There are other more appropriate initiatives that need to be explored. History and opportunity once lost can seldom be recovered.
In a scramble to amass a huge heap of cash, the developer would house some 8000 people from disadvantaged backgrounds onto the land that holds the remains of many of their own ancestors. They would have no understanding of the associated risks of the diseases or of the history and will occupy bonded properties. The developer plans to "make features" of the small number of graves that can still be identified! This is morally disturbing. We cannot standby and allow this to happen. Every single South African is his brothers keeper and we need to bring a halt to this development on a number of issues. The details of which are too many to discuss in this e mail.
I emplore you to bring this to the attention of all interested and influential parties in the Indian community as I am at a loss as to who to contact. The development company is Urban Dynamics. Be aware that we disagree with much of the information that they are giving out to the public. It would be helpful to lodge a formal objection in writing to the scoping company Bokamasa who are busy with their feasibility study You are more than welcome to contact me for any additional information or contacts that you may require. This is of the utmost urgency and it would be appreciated if you would forward this to as many influential people in the Indian Community as possible.
Lynne van der Schyff