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Rietfontein Heritage Action Project

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Rietfontein Heritage Action Project was initiated by a small group of concerned citizens.  We came to know that the City of Johannesburg was planning to sell a piece of land to developers so that a massive "Mixed Use Inclusionary Housing Project" could be constructed on this piece of land.

As housing is desperately needed here in South Africa we would normally applaud such an initiative, but our objection comes from the actual land where the development is supposed to be built.

This piece of land houses the Sizwe Tropical Disease Hospital.  Dating back to the early 1900's this hospital was named Rietfontein Hospital.  The Hospital was started in order to admit patients that were suffering from serious, highly contagious diseases such as smallpox, bubonic plague, leprosy and other tropical diseases.  The hospital was purposely situated a day's wagon ride from Johannesburg in order to ensure that these diseases were kept well away from the general population in order to decrease the risks of others contracting these diseases.

As many of the patients admitted to the hospital died, the land surrounding the hospital was used as a graveyard.  In order to cater for different cultures and races (especially white, black and indian in the old South Africa) there were approximately seven different graveyards scattered across this big piece of land.

Now these developers want to build a housing development on this land, which is occupied by graves of people who died of very serious, contagious diseases.  This housing development would inevitably cater for black people who are currently homeless or living in very dire circumstances.  It naturally follows that these people would already have impaired immune systems due to their poor diet and the straitened circumstances of their living conditions.  Added to this is the fact that none of these people would have the financial wherewithal to belong to a Medical Aid which would therefore make it impossible for them to have access to private healthcare.  They would be reliant on the Government/public hospitals in the area.  These hospitals are in appalling condition and the nursing care offered to current patients is almost non-existent.  

In our opinion it is completely immoral to even contemplate housing indigent people in such a potentially dangerous location.  We also have serious concerns of the risks to the communities currently living in the areas surrounding Sizwe.  What is going to happen once bulldozers, earthlifters and other construction equipment is allowed to start disturbing the soil?  Not a single expert is willing to state categorically that there is no risk of the pathogens of these diseases being released into the atmosphere when construction begins.  

Of further serious concern is the disrespect to the people who died - nobody can seriously believe that once huge construction equipment moves onto the land that they will be able to preserve the graves, as has been stated by the Environmental Impact Practitioner.

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