Traces of Joburg's Khoisan residents are evident at Eikenhof, where worshippers still gather at the Ebenezer Congregational Church.
A SHORT drive south of the city, some 10 kilometres outside the CBD, are remnants of Joburg's first settlement of Khoisan, South Africa's oldest people.
Adam Mathysen standing alongside one of the four disused mine tunnels along the banks of the Klip RiverAdam Mathysen standing alongside one of the four disused mine tunnels along the banks of the Klip RiverThey are to be found at the Eikenhof Khoisan Farm, portion 80, consisting of 247 hectares of land immediately south of the Klipriviersberg mountain, on the banks of the Klip River. The site has been occupied by Khoisan people for about 100 years, squeezed between several farms belonging to whites, who moved into the area from the 1850s onwards.
The Khoisan community appears to have settled on the site in the mid-1890s. A cluster of houses was established in the veld around a church, which doubled as a school. In those days it was known as Jackson's Drift, a reference to a crossing point about a kilometre downstream.
Over thousands of years the original peoples of South Africa – the San or Bushmen, and the Khoi – have lived side by side, and are now commonly called the Khoisan.
There are other interesting elements to the site: Stone Age artefacts, early traces of gold mining exploration, the battleground for control of Joburg in 1900, and a wetland.
Today the site consists of four buildings: the Ebenezer Congregational Church; two dilapidated, unoccupied houses; and a new house, positioned around a patch of mown grass some 30 metres north of the Klip River. The grass is scattered with rocks and syringa trees and beds of cannas and bright orange marigolds. Traces of other structures can be seen in the surrounding tall grass, mostly made of stone and clay; some are believed to be cattle kraals, others houses.
On a line flutters the washing of Hester Williams, the caretaker of the church. She lives with her husband in the newly built house, constructed in October last year by the church. She has been on the site for the past 30 years, and still draws her water from a well alongside her house, but has no electricity.
Walking westwards along a raised rocky bank, there are four tunnels running into the bank, remnants of unsuccessful gold diggings. The site runs up the hill, to the top of the koppie. At the base of the koppie is a Rand Water plant, and further north is the Afrisam quarry.
The dilapidated and shuttered house alongside the church, with ruins of other structures nearbyThe dilapidated and shuttered house alongside the church, with ruins of other structures nearbySouth of the river is a large wetland, running east and over the R554 freeway. Just beyond the freeway is Jackson's Drift, now a bridge. In the immediate vicinity of the bridge are abandoned buildings, remnants of what used to be the small village of Eikenhof. The ruins of a school, a post office and a hotel are discernible.
It was at Jackson's Drift and other places along the Klip River that British forces crossed in their successful assault upon Johannesburg in 1900 during the South African War of 1899-1902.
From the site the faint hum of the traffic on the R554 is audible. The farm runs over the freeway – a housing development now fills the eastern boundary, where a graveyard once stood. About 122 graves were moved to Sharpeville to make way for the development.
Besides the mild traffic din, the open space exudes the tranquillity of the countryside, with birds twittering and a breeze rustling through the tall grass.
A study of the farm was done in 2006 by PD Birkholtz of Archaeology Africa, on behalf of Khare Incorporated and various developers, whose proposals for portions of the site range from an entertainment complex, a shopping centre and petrol garage, to a mixed industrial and residential development.
"The heritage inventory has revealed the existence of at least 12 heritage sites located within the study area, of which the Ebenhezer Congregational Church site is certainly most significant," states Birkholtz's report.