Johannesburg – In the heart of Pageview in Johannesburg lies a small, but almost forgotten museum, rich with the city’s history.
Located between the Brixton Cemetery and the Enoch Sontonga Memorial Park, the Fietas Museum was declared a heritage site in 2013 and is single-handedly run by Salma Patel.
But the museum and the surrounding areas have been vandalised by homeless people, which has resulted in perceptions that the area is not welcoming for tourists, Patel said.
"Every morning I have to clean up the mess people leave in front of the museum. Some even urinate in front of the door," she said. "The visitors leave with a very negative perception of the place and that makes South Africa vulnerable."
The museum is situated in the former Indian bazaar, a double-storey building on Fourteenth Street, which was established in 1894. It was used as a building where families lived and traded.
Today, visitors can get an insight into the multi-cultural community and its rich history that became fragmented by the social engineering policies of apartheid under the leadership of the National Party. It is one of the few buildings that survived the destruction in 1976.
Patel has been manager of the museum since 2013 and lives in a flat above it.
Visitors to the museum include South Africans and tourists from around the world – New Zealand, Australia, the United States, Canada and Germany - if the visitors’ log is any indication of why Patel feels so strongly about the museum and the area.
A tour of the museum was usually accompanied with a tour through the streets of Pageview, but Patel said she no longer felt it was safe for visitors to do so.
"The homeless people have intimidated and harassed me to the point where I can’t conduct a walking tour anymore," she said.
Patel feels the ANC is not doing its part in preserving the heritage site and the surrounding area. The government was not processing land claims from owners forced to move during apartheid, causing homeless people to occupy the area, she says.