The Free State government says plans are at an advanced stage to have the iconic Waaihoek Wesleyan Church in Bloemfontein declared the world heritage site. It is where the then South African Native National Congress, now the ANC, was formed in 1912.

The historic church was declared a national heritage site in 2018. To be declared as the world heritage site is the highest level of prestige and protection a heritage site can receive. The church was restored almost a decade ago. Some of Mangaung residents say the history of the church should be preserved.

“Yes I know Waaihoek and I think its important to keep such places so that we can show the young ones how did they come about and the importance to know their history as children,” said one resident, adding: ” Yes ANC is important to other people but there are those who can’t see the importance of the ANC but like I said Waaihoek can be used as museum for young generation to come so that they can see where ANC come from. It will be a good idea to be turned into a museum because it remind us of our ancestors; it will remind us our history where we coming from so that we going it can show us many things our roots our culture.”

Mangaung Metro forges ahead with plans to have Waaihoek Wesleyan Church declared World Heritage Site:

Free State ANC chairperson, Sam Mashinini, says the church is central to the history of the party.

“The birth of African national congress brought freedom because as you know in 1994 we then ventured into a new democracy brought by the African National Congress, so this is very important for the people of south Africa to know and understand where they are coming from that we are from we were from the apartheid system but today we are in democracy.”

Mangaung Metro spokesperson, Qondile Khedama, says once declared the world heritage site, more tourists will flock to the city.

“We have engaged with other stakeholders at the centre of stakeholders is department of Arts and Culture what will happen is we are waiting for the report from Unesco. As soon as Unesco declares us, we would be able to also put our house in order with regards to tourism, marketing the city ensuring that it fits well with provincial development strategy,” says Khedama.

“Wesleyan Church is one of surviving buildings after forced removal of 1913 and also the demolition of the buildings that were here so the only surviving building is the Wesleyan Church and adjacent buildings I think its three buildings which are here in private hands. There is collective effort between the government and the municipality to ensure that we buy those properties to enter into negotiations with owners so that we are agree so that it will be good if government to take ownership of those buildings so that we know we can start with process of that this place becomes a precinct so that we tell the history of the Weslyian Church as it is,” adds the head of cultural affairs in the provincial Arts and Culture Department, Vincent Khetha.

There’s currently little activity at the church, largely due to COVID-19 restrictions. However, post the pandemic and with its expected elevated status, it is bound to the bustling. – Report by Thabiso Radebe