Intervention ‘urgently’ needed after fire, collapse at agricultural museum


The Federation of Afrikaans Cultural Associations (FAK) will soon meet with several role players to deal with the decay and mismanagement of the North-West Agricultural Museum in Lichtenburg. This building was also recently damaged by a destructive fire.

According to the FAK, a fire that broke out at this museum last week caused great devastation and destroyed one of the museum’s most characteristic landmarks, a train.

The fire is believed to have been caused by fires made by illegal occupants on the premises. However, according to the FAK, this is only one of the consequences of poor maintenance and mismanagement by the Ditsibotla local municipality. In addition, the museum was also broken into earlier this week.

“The FAK contacted several people in the area to get behind the hatchet,” said Barry Müller, FAK culture coordinator for the northern provinces.

“According to a reliable source, some of the reasons why this museum is in such a state are workers of the museum who have not yet received their salary last month, medical and pensions which have not been paid in three months and security services which have not has not been paid. The sheriff has already auctioned off equipment twice, which is the reason for the deterioration of the site.”

Müller says contact has been made with the municipality and the mayor several times, but they have not responded to the FAK’s inquiries.

“On 26 May 2023, the FAK met with various organizations about the condition and deterioration of this museum. Grain SA, Saai, a representative of Nampo, Agri SA, North West Cooperative (NWK) and a local council member investigated solutions during this meeting to prevent the deterioration of the museum and the destruction of the valuable exhibits.

“Barely six weeks later, serious destruction was caused, vandalism took place and even theft. Further destruction also took place during a burglary in the museum earlier this week.”

Müller says that during his visit to the site shortly before the fire, the museum was closed, the grass untamed and a local resident’s cattle were grazing on the site.

“Mismanagement is the order of the day. Now the damage is much worse.

“Some of the corrugated iron roofs under which the implements stood were stolen. The train was burnt down. Parts of the fence surrounding the museum were stolen. The site is in a much worse condition than it was during my visit in May and the museum remains closed. Our heritage is deteriorating more and more and cannot be visited. What was once a magnificent museum is now in ruins, like many other heritage beacons in this area.”

He believes local residents are passionate about the museum and have expressed their disappointment at the state of the museum.

“This is the result of mismanagement in a municipality. According to an official of the municipality, who wished to remain anonymous, council meetings do not take place because there is no quorum. If this does happen, there are only motions of no confidence to lift the mayor from the pillows again.

“The FAK will meet again on Monday 10 July with parties to come up with a solution that will prevent further devastation.”