Durban City Hall

Since the Durban City Hall was officially opened on 12 May 1910 the imposing domed building has been the centre of municipal government, housing the Mayor’s Parlour, council chambers and other important offices. During decades of state-sanctioned racial segregation, and apartheid legislation after 1948, the city council and elected officials represented the will of only a small white minority. As a result, until 1994 the City Hall was regarded as a significant symbol of racist government oppression by the majority of Durban residents. This view was reinforced by the colonial heritage of the site surrounding the City Hall, which was renamed Farewell Square in 1924 to commemorate the arrival of Francis Farewell and British settlers who established a permanent trading post at Port Natal in 1824. The walled square dates from 1945 when a Royal visit was planned and includes memorials to Queen Victoria, colonial-era military regiments and local dignitaries. Anti-apartheid protest marches against the discriminatory laws of the Durban government frequently moved along West Street (renamed Dr Pixley kaSeme Street) to the offices of the Mayor. A key event in the final decline of apartheid occurred in the City Hall on 15 August 1985 when President P.W. Botha addressed the National Party Congress held in Durban. Although expected to announce major reforms, including the release of Nelson Mandela, Botha refused to submit to international pressure for change. The event became known as the “Rubicon Speech”, and represented the last stand for advocates of South Africa’s policy of racial segregation and political persecution.

Location

Address: corner of Dr Pixley kaSeme St and Church St
GPS Points: -29.85286, 31.02419
Site Contact Details: Steven Kotze
Durban Local History Museums
steven.kotze@durban.gov.za
031 311 2239

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