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Friday Feb 07, 2014

Durban wants new home for Da Gama clock

The eThekwini Municipality, together with the Amafa aKwaZulu-Natali (Heritage KZN), yesterday announced plans to have the Vasco da Gama clock and drinking fountain relocated from Margaret Mncadi Avenue (formerly Victoria Embankment).

The Vasco da Gama clock and drinking fountain in Margaret Mncadi Avenue, formerly Victoria Embankment.

The municipality stated in a press release that a 1984 survey of historic buildings and objects noted that the present site was considered inappropriate, as the position was arbitrary with no historical or spatial significance, other than possibly the Navy's SAS Inkonkoni building, now the BAT Arts Centre, across the railway tracks.

Furthermore, mature trees in the gardens tended to obscure clear views of the memorial, except from close by.

If the plans are given the goahead, this will be the second time the iconic structure will be relocated.

It was originally placed at the corner of Mahatma Gandhi (Point) Road and Southampton Street near the Point Docks. It was relocated to Margaret Mncadi Avenue in 1969.

The structure was manufactured by Macfarlane's Saracen Foundry in Glasgow, Scotland, in cast iron to a design selected from their catalogue.

In its current status, the drinking fountain water supply and clocks have stopped working. Rust has corroded the structure in places.

The Vasco da Gama memorial clock was erected in 1897 to mark the 400th anniversary of the Portuguese explorer's voyage to India, during which he named this area Natal on Christmas Eve, 1497.

Municipal spokesman, Thabo Mofokeng, said Amafa was calling for public comments on a proposed alternative site that would be suitable for the relocation.

'The clock/fountain is included in the Municipality's Listing of Important Places and Buildings in Durban and is also protected under the KZN Heritage Act as a public memorial,' Mofokeng said.

'The municipality first requested citizens to make comment on proposed relocation sites in 2010. However, after some consideration, the municipality felt it important to reopen this platform to allow for more public comment.'

The alternative sites to be considered are:

  • Margaret Mncadi Avenue, opposite Samora Machel (Aliwal) Street, on the city side of the railway but visually linked to the Maritime Museum. Approximately 200m from the present location.

  • As close as possible to the original site at Mahatma Gandhi Road/Southampton Street at the Point.

  • Within the developing Point Waterfront area.

  • The final option is to leave the clock at its present site.

    Interested parties can submit their suggestions to The Director, Amafa aKwaZuluNatali, 195 Langalibalele (Longmarket) Street, Pietermaritzburg, or send an e-mail to


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