The City of Tshwane says it wants to take control of the neglected Women’s Living Heritage Monument at Lillian Ngoyi Square in Pretoria. The monument remains closed, four years after its launch. The delays were due to disputes between appointed service providers and sub-contractors.

The multi-million rand facility was also declared a fire hazard. The City believes it can take better care of the monument and wants to take over the facility from the Gauteng Department of  Sport,  Arts, Culture, and Recreation. The monument aims to celebrate and preserve the history of women who played a role in the liberation struggle of South Africa.

Unveiled in 2016 by former President Jacob Zuma, the heritage site features statues of four struggle stalwarts, Lillian Ngoyi, Helen Joseph, Sophie de Bruyn, and Rahima Moosa, who led the historic 1956 Women’s March to the Union Buildings.

It was also set to have a leadership and development training centre and to boost tourism activity in the capital.

This week, Tshwane Mayor Randall Williams conducted an oversight visit at the facility and indicated that the city wanted to take over the facility.

“We did indicate to the provincial government as the City of Tshwane that we are interested in taking over the project but then if we are going to take over it becomes our project as the city. Then we’ll be able to fix and make sure it’s in good condition because one of the key pillars here in Tshwane which were mentioned by the mayor during his state of the capital address is that we want to attract tourism and we do see this monument as one of the key sites that would drive that tourism drive. We want to get onto it, so the city is interested in running this project,” says spokesperson, Sipho Stuurman.

Squabbles between appointed contractors are cited as the main reason for the delay. The condition of the building has since worsened due to vandalism. It was also declared a fire hazard by the city’s fire department, which declined to grant a certificate of occupancy.

“The situation currently with the monument is that it is not in a good state since the monument was launched in 2016, the building does not have an occupancy certificate but also the building does not have full-time staff who make sure it’s in good condition or offer security. The building is not compliant with a number of building regulations, there’s also electrical cabling of the building that has been vandalized, several things in the building have been vandalized. So, it’s not in a good state to be occupied,” explains Stuurman.

It costs the provincial department of Sports, Arts Culture and Recreation at least R2 million annually for the maintenance and upkeep of the unused facility. The Democratic Alliance in the Gauteng Legislature has called on MEC, Mbali Hlophe, to prioritise the project in honour of the historical legacy of women.

“We feel that this is like money being thrown down a bottomless pit. It’s something they need to prioritise; some of the things they are prioritising are not benefitting the arts and heritage within the province. Maybe the department must start prioritising these things and ensure that the Gauteng community gets the value of these institutions,” says Democratic Alliance’s Kingsol Chabalala.

The department denies the facility has been neglected. In a statement, it says it is  focusing on outstanding issues to get the occupancy certificate . Spokesperson, Nomazwe Ntlokwana, says the facility should be fully operational in August.