Red Location Museum


At the end of the South African War, in 1902, Port Elizabeth was hit by an outbreak of Bubonic Plague. For health reasons the Cape Government decided to demolish all the Black villages in Port Elizabeth. Farmland was purchased in the Deal Party area and a model village just outside the city was planned in order to provide homes to the Black people whose homes were demolished.

There was a concentration camp in Uitenhage, which had been used to hold prisoners during the South African War and from this camp most of the corrugated iron was purchased to build the new model village. Because the iron was painted with red paint, the new village became known as the “Red Location” and it has maintained its name till the present day. The first inhabitants moved in in 1903. Ablution blocks were erected in the New Brighton area and the village remained under government regulation until 1923 when the municipality took over control. Over the years many new dwellings have been added, especially as the population exploded after the Second World War and shacks suddenly mushroomed up. Ownership of many of the homes has later reverted to the hands of the ancestors of the original inhabitants.

The Emlotheni Memorial Park

Within the Red Location a memorial park has been constructed to commemorate the lives of ANC activists who died in the armed struggle to achieve Democracy in South Africa.

The Emlothini Memorial Park was opened in June 1998 by Mayor Ncebu Faku and then Deputy President Thabo Mbeki with ten thousand ANC supporters in attendance. Also present were ANC veterans Walter Sisulu, Raymond Mhlaba and Govan Mbeki (after whom the Main Road of the city has been renamed). At the ceremony the remains of six ANC cadres were laid to rest. These included the first three ANC freedom fighters who were sentenced to death in 1964 by the Apartheid government for the death of an alleged police informer. Their remains were exhumed from Pretoria and they were given a hero’s burial in Red Location.

The Port Elizabeth Municipality granted the Human Rights Trust R2,2 million to construct the memorial Park.

Deputy President Thabo Mbeki, who later became South African President said at the ceremony, “The six people buried here today are national heroes because everything we have today that we are proud of, are the things for which they died.”

On Friday, 1o November 2006, the doors of Nelson Mandela Bay’s Red Location Museum of struggle were officially opened to the public and the world.

The hundreds of quests attending this historic event were held spellbound whilst wandering through the enchanting and magnificent building and its fifteen massive columns (“pillars”) dedicated to struggle heroes, memory boxes, posters, the Langa Massacre exhibition, Siyaya Children’s art and many other interesting exhibitions.

Among the poignant exhibits were letters written by former President Nelson Mandela while incarcerated on Robben Island.

Safety and Security Minister Charles Nqakula, keynote speaker and originally from Cradock refereed to the fact that he always met struggle veterans when he visited the Eastern Cape.

Nqakula’s opening of the Museum is especially relevant since, under the previous regime, the Police was responsible for enforcing the inhumane apartheid laws and even killing anti-apartheid activists.

“We are creating a new society by implanting in our kids value systems and creating a building to remind them of their history,” the Minister said.

The Museum already scooped up several local and international awards: the World Leadership Award in the civil Engineering and Architecture categories(December 2005); second place runner –up for the Eastern Cape Leaders Achievers Awards (June 2006); the Lubetkin Award form the Royal Institute of British Architects(June 2006) and the Dedalo Minosse Internation Prize (June 2006)

Nelson Mandela Bay Municipality Deputy Executive Mayor, Cllr Bicks Ndoni, said everybody was a product of history. “We are what we are today because of our history. By helping to understand our past, museums help prepare us for the challenges ahead in a manner that is best suited to our economic, social and cultural context, in a manner that enables us to retain our identity,” he said.

Ms Catherine Burgill from the World Cultural Museum in Goteburg, Sweden, stated that a webcam would be put up at the Red Location Museum to enable the two museums to be in constant contact with each other. The museums clinched a partnership, following in the footsteps of their respective municipalities, who have had a highly successful partnership since 1999.

Ms Deidre Prins-solani, President of the south African Museums Association, and Mr Phakamani Buthelezi, Chief Executive of South African Heritage Resource Agency, commended the Municipality for having the foresight to build such a unique building.

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DETAILED PHOTOS: Annette Du Plessis of Red Location Museum

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Port Elizabeth erected the first campanile in South Africa in 1921.

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Last updated:
3 October 2012 7:51