Durban City Hall: A Building Steeped in History

A policeman arrests two Indian men during an anti-apartheid demonstration outside Durban City Hall, November 1983

A policeman arrests two Indian men during an anti-apartheid demonstration outside Durban City Hall, November 1983

Completed just over a century ago Durban’s City Hall has been witness to the history of the city, and of the country, as South Africa moved from four distinct British colonies, to the Union of South Africa, and finally to its present day state of the Republic of South Africa. It has seen the country ruled by the British Empire, been the venue for political speeches given by the apartheid government, and today houses a democratic, multiracial council. As the focal point of the CBD it has been the site of countless demonstrations and protests, particularly during the apartheid era. As Thekwini Municipality head of International Governance and Relations, Eric Appelgren, said at the City Hall centenary celebrations, “I used to come here to protest and shout at the people who worked in this building. Now I’m in here and people come and shout at me!”.

Anti-xenophobia protest outside Durban City Hall, April 2015

Anti-xenophobia protest outside Durban City Hall, April 2015

Even today the City Hall often finds itself in the spotlight as the public debates the relevance of the colonialist statues in Farewell Square, just outside City Hall. Marches about the rights of street vendors, and residents’ opposition to various politicians or public servants also find a voice on the steps of the City Hall. It is a building filled with history and life, and is one well worth visiting as part of Durban’s Liberation Heritage Route – whether it’s to take a look back in time at the Natural Science Museum, steep yourself in culture at the Durban Art Gallery or just ponder this wonderful city of ours, that is so rich in history.

P.S. An interesting aside – the Durban City Hall is almost an exact replica of the Belfast City Hall in Ireland.

Images courtesy of huffingtonpost.com and rdm.co.za

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