Call to preserve Bellville heritage

A Boston man fears future generations will never know the history of Bellville and the significance of landmarks in the area.

After reading our souvenir edition of October 27, Johan Bouwer’s quest to have the 12-Mile Stone in Bellville declared a national monument was rekindled.

Mr Bouwer has been living in Boston for about 10 years, after moving there from Bothasig, and says he happened to stumble across the 12-Mile Stone, while he was working in Bellville.

Intrigued by this landmark, he did some research of his own but couldn’t find out who was responsible for the care of the stone, which today is a far cry from its former glory.

Bellville was originally named the 12 Mile Post, because it is located 12 miles (20km) from the Cape Town city centre.

The post used to be a resting and meeting place for farmers during Bellville’s early years.

Mr Bouwer says the stone today, however, has no signage or information about its history.

“It would be a pity if the stone was just left there to deteriorate further,” he said.

He wants to know why the stone is not being preserved and why it is not a national monument.

South African Heritage Resource Agency spokesman Thomas Khakhu, however, says national monuments are no longer declared.

“The term ‘national monument’ dates back to the era of the National Monuments Council. Only national and provincial heritage sites are declared under current legislation.

“National monuments are an archaic concept and is no longer used, nor do we declare such,” he said.

Mr Bouwer said he would like to see the stone either restored with informative signage or moved to a museum.

Mr Khakhu said because the stone is a heritage resource it must, of necessity, be protected. That could include the issuing of a compulsory repair order to the appropriate authority.

As for having the stone moved to a museum, Mr Khakhu said: “Museums are no longer considered an appropriate form of protection, and funding is rather scant on this type of project.

“The Department of Arts and Culture is also reluctant to give this type of protection because of the cost to run and maintain these.”

Mr Bouwer fears Bellville’s rich history is threatened by further development in an area that has become a bustling urban centre, often referred to as Cape Town’s second hub.

“Bellville is rich in culture and heritage, and it would be a sad day if this is lost to our children,” he said.