Feb 11

Phoenix Settlement – Inanda Heritage Route Development

by in History & Memories, Tourism



M K Gandhi selected this 100 acre farm in 1904 to relocate his International Printing Press from Johannesburg and for his experiment in communal living, in response to John Ruskin’s book “Unto This Last”. According to his autobiography, “My Experiments with Truth” Gandhi was impressed by Ruskin’s ideals, “That the good of the individual is contained in the good of all” and “That the life of labour ie the life of the tiller of soil and the handicraftsman is the life worth living” These still carry profound connections to contemporary concepts such as Ubuntu and Sustainability.
Phoenix Settlement became the fountainhead of the Gandhian Trinity; Ahimsa (Reverence for Life), Satyagraha ( Call for Action) & Sarvodaya (Welfare of All), which contributed significantly to the demise of colonialism and so bestowing this site with global significance. These ideas informed the ANC’s Freedom Charter giving it direct links to South African contemporary history as well.
The Settlement stood as a beacon for mass democratic rights throughout the Apartheid period until it was destroyed during land invasions in 1985 followed by horrific political violence and rebuilding 14 years later. (Refer to images in Section 1.2.3)

Make a visit potentially life changing
Create a world class Interpretation Centre as an introduction to the overall route backed up by comfortable facilities
Develop the site for “The Welfare of All”. Learning, Understanding and Care especially for the disadvantaged
FET oR other tertiary training facility
Reclaim the Apex land – remove shacks
Non-aligned religiously, but reverent.
Celebrate Ahimsa by being manifestly ‘green’
Respect for Ruskin’s philosophy of self reliance
Establish facilities for overnight stays interrelated with training / conferences.
Demonstrate self-reliance with urban agriculture.
Demo food garden and worm farm – sustainability
Upgraded school

Use remaining evidence of the 1985 violence ( Kasturba Gandhi Primary School ruins) as a counterpoint to global co-existence teachings at the established Centre for Learning in the former Museum and the personal contacts at the “Gandhi Luthuli Academy of Arts”.
Present Sarvodaya as the home and crucible of ideologies with the smaller back rooms dedicated to Mahatma Gandhi’s latter period in India, the destruction, reconstruction and recent events on site such as the visit of Sonya Gandhi.
The Printing Press will deal with the importance of early newspapers ( Indian Opinion and Ilanga) and display a picture of the original wood and iron press next to the stream. The Sathya Sai Movement currently runs dental and ophthalmic clinics there. The statue of Dorothy Nyembe, who sheltered in the building during the political unrest should be placed on the verandah with an interpretative panel of her political achievements.
The Gandhi Clinic, which celebrates its 50th anniversary in 2011, will focus on the ‘Welfare for All’ message with it’s response to the HIV/AIDS pandemic being a “Drop-in” Centre, Home-based care and OVC (Orphans and Vulnerable Children) programmes which visitors are welcome to witness. During the pre-election violence this building served as a refuge which will be demonstrated by marking bullet holes in the masonry walls.
Kasturbapavan ( designed by Hermann Kallenbach, a Gandhian and renowned South African architect) as a B & B or Backpackers is bound to be successful, considering it’s globally significant location, can house the balance of the Indian photographic collection and also celebrate significant events with plaques on the verandah eg “It was here that the Committee for Clemency made the first call for the release of all political prisoners in January 1971, Signatories included; Archbishop Dennis Hurley, Shushila Gandhi, Mewa Ramgobin, Rick Turner, Lawrence Schlemmer, Alex Borain, Mary Grice, Dr Rustomjee, Louis Skweyiya and others” and “ The United Democratic Front held their first National Executive Meeting symbolically at the Phoenix Settlement in 1983. Their motto was ‘Apartheid Divides, UDF Unites’”.
The ‘Kastuba Gandhi Government Aided Indian Achool’ is an example of what not to do to important historic buildings! The original school was an important statement by MK Handhi’s wife Kasturba, who had an arranged marriage when she was a teenager and subsequently was never formally educated. She resented this, and the beginnings of this hunger for education came about within Savodaya, where the couple took local children in for schooling. In 1954 the school was built in recognition of this, opening back onto a courtyard below Sarvodaya
In September 1985 the school building was destroyed for building materials. AMAFA approved plans have been presented to the Public Works Dept, however, these plans have been steadfastly ignored and mundane standard classrooms were built in front of the ruins on what was once the playing fields.


The ruin is now visually dislocated and dangerous for children, (refer to image on the right). It is proposed to excise the land from the school (the transfer to the school is unregistered) along the base of the bank and reconnect it back visually to Sarvodaya up the existing steps.
Education remains an imperative to escape the vicious circle of poverty. The final vision of the site includes facilities for a crèche (Shanti), Grade R and Primary School, an existing Comtech on the boundary and finally FET or similar training facilities.
Situated at the beginning of the Route the Interpretation Centre, in the former Library must be a world class and informative experience of all of Inanda, backed up by impeccable tourist comfort facilities with universal access, comprehensive visitor information, security, and a choice of facilities. Craft should be available for purchase as well as facilities provided to make donations.
The original agreement between the Phoenix Settlement Trust and the City of Durban separated the historic ‘Apex’ from the ‘periphery’, which was donated for housing. This brought about the settlement fourteen years after the 1985 land invasion. However, although the ‘apex’ was formally surveyed, it was never fully cleared of shacks, which means that the City has not kept its side of the bargain. This is essential for the welfare of all, so the implementation plans propose a gradual hardening of the cadastral boundaries, albeit penetrable.

The heritage of the site as a whole must be respected. Every alteration or addition must be submitted for approval by Heritage Authorities.
Major re-development and or new development must be discouraged in the historic core. It is a humble place. Keep it like that.
Buildings to be literally green and to follow ‘green’ principles. e.g. no obvious air conditioning.
Gandhian founding principles always to be borne in mind e.g. Gandhi espoused hand labour to gain dignity through employment and could even be considered as the forerunner of ‘Labour Based Construction.












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