Category: East Rand

A Honey of a Tank

A few years back, in 2011 I did the rounds of the usual haunts, hunting down plinthed and preserved tanks, there were three models that fell into my research, namely Crusaders, Shermans and M3 Stuarts. This post deal with one Stuart in particular.  I will not go into the history of these M3’s, suffice to say they were popularly referred to as “Honey’s”.

This vehicle I photographed in 2011 while visiting the Roll of Honour at the Cosy Corner MOTH Shellhole in Brakpan.

The history of this particular vehicle is not known, but it is likely that she was a gate guard at a former MOTH Shellhole somewhere in the Springs area and she is currently situated at Google Earth co-ordinates: -26.252307°,  28.446881°. This is a former park, but sadly it is more of the remains of a park. The tank when I photographed her was not a total wreck yet.

Those open doors at the back set off alarm bells in my mind when I saw her, sooner or later somebody was going to get in there and remove parts off her engine, assuming that it had not been done already.

Wind forward to 2017, and Joe Borain from Cosy Corner went to see whether she was still intact or not. rumours were that she was not looking good.  I will post the images more or less in the the same order as the “before (2011)” images.

As you can see, the engine compartment has had lots of attention from the scrap metal thieves.

It also appears as if the open viewing slits have been used to “post rubbish” into. It is only a matter of time before they get organised enough to go after her tracks and idlers. The scrap metal industry is not averse to assisting those who decide to remove steel from monuments and memorials. Remember, watched a whole collection of steam locomotives systematically stripped by illicit scrap thieves in 2010. Anything can happen.

What can be done? According to Joe site has been fenced, although he did manage to get in. And, a local garage was supposedly keeping an eye on her too. But, what really needs to happen is they need to weld the front viewing ports and rear engine doors shut. And ideally get her moved from the spot where she is now. Who does she belong to? probably the SANDF, and getting permission to move her will be quite a rigmarole. Springs city council were supposed to have renovated the derelict war memorial by mid 2015 and that too stalled so there is not much hope of help from them. But the way things are, one day that honey of a tank will be no more. 

© DRW 2017-2018. Created 08/01/2016. 2017 Images are by Joe Borain and are used with permission.

Updated: 01/01/2018 — 16:43

So what happened about Rietfontein?

So what happened about Rietfontein and the proposed development? For readers who have no idea what this is about, I suggest you first go do some reading:
**Update 08/2018**
It appeared that the whole development was put on hold indefinitely following a Johannesburg Metropolitan Municipality tribunal hearing on 4 October 2017 (
However in July 2018, there was activity on the site. Access roads are being cut across the property, with some roads close to the known graveyards, and heavy machinery is being used to clear the undergrowth for these roads.

Update ends.
Other older posts:

Graves in the Veld: Rietfontein
Reitfontein Just Won’t go Away
The Last Word

In short a developer came forward with a plan to develop this site and erect over 8000 “low cost” houses on the site of the unused area alongside the N3 highway, between the Modderfontein and Linksfield road off ramps. A number of concerns were raised by residents and other interested and affected parties.

Of concern to me was the 3 known graveyards that existed on the site, and the uncertainty that there may be more unmarked graves or burial areas in the affected area earmarked for development. The biggest problem that we all faced was a lack of records regarding the burials at the site, these were supposedly destroyed by a fire many years ago. There was also evidence of  a Jewish cemetery that did not show up on maps. Unfortunately boots on the ground did not show where this cemetery was, although so many years after the fact it is possible that any physical evidence has been destroyed or removed.

Recently the final Environmental Impact Assessment was released by Bokamoso Environmental Consultants, and it makes for very interesting reading. I spent a whole afternoon wading through it and trying to make up my own mind. The deadline for submissions and comments was March 08, and this has now passed (these links may not work anymore). 

One of the main issues raised was the possibility of a pathogen being released by the construction work, and I have to admit I was concerned about it myself. A number of experts were consulted by the consultants who performed a number of tests around the site, and the conclusion was that there no real risk as long as the correct protocols and procedures were followed. The main one being the non disturbance of the existing graveyards, and if graves were uncovered what was to be done. I am not a biologist and much of what I read was way above my head, however my fears were allayed somewhat. The major concerns were for an outbreak of Anthrax and Smallpox, but the evidence shows there is a minimal risk, as long as no active pathogens were encountered. What was disturbing was the results of tests done in the water of the Jukskei River that runs parallel to the highway, and that points to a breakdown of services.

Once the graves and diseases had been dealt with it seemed the usual spectre of crime, lack of services, property values,  traffic, noise, air pollution, and overcrowding raised their heads. And here there were many valid concerns, all of which were dwelt on by the consultants in the report. Unfortunately they were dealt with in a way that seemed to indicate that the city of Johannesburg was competent and that the many departments associated with infrastructure would do their job, that money was available, and that all the substructures were in place at the building site, as well as the required reticulation, sewerage, water etc was handled as proposed. We all know that this rarely happens. South Africa is already facing a huge issue with electricity generation, and adding another 8000 light bulbs is not going to make the load smaller.

Unfortunately, I have always been of the opinion that the development will go ahead irrespective of all the objections, and some of the comments that I read in the report just serve to further my opinion. I will however admit that the consultants did a good job with the report, and that they were really facing a very difficult task given how heated the debate became.  Again though, it is their report, it is not the final rubber stamp.

I am pretty sure the residents will still continue the fight, as is their right to do so. I am also sure that in the 8 years that it is going to take to complete all phases of the project they will continue to object and raise Caine. But at the end of the day, whether the development is anything like what has been proposed and whether all the services are provided as proposed will remain to be seen.

Fortunately it appears as if the graveyards will be safe as they are not in the area to be developed. They will probably be fenced and a monument will be erected to the nameless that are buried here. It appears as if that number may be roughly 7000.  Sadly, parts of the Sizwe hospital will probably be demolished, and the site which has seen so much suffering and death will cease to serve the community that it has served for so long. Realistically this hospital played a very large part in the history of Johannesburg, but because it was not in the northern suburbs has not had the attention it deserves from a heritage point of view.

And there you have it. Rietfontein has not been forgotten, it is really just at a point where a nameless bureaucrat has to apply a rubber stamp, and I suspect that rubber stamp will read “approved”. Johannesburg will loose an important part of its history, the traffic will flow even slower than it currently does. Crime will get worse, people will move away from their homes and new people will move into the area. 10 years down the line the cemetery will once again be neglected, the infrastructure will be inadequate, and each time it rains heavily floods will occur downstream in Alex, and I know that the heritage of Dr Mehliss will be just another page in a history book, and I will be staring at my computer screen and saying “what did I tell you?”

© DRW 2015-2018. Images migrated and links corrected 27/05/2016

Updated: 03/08/2018 — 18:39

Rietfontein just wont go away.

Last year I was fortunate enough to do a lot of grave hunting in the Rietfontein area, and blogged about it on a number of occasions. For those that are not aware of it, this small piece of Johannesburg is the site of at least 4 cemeteries associated with the Rietfontein Infectious Diseases Hospital.


It is a very pristine and unchanged environment which is only really marred by people who use it as a dump site. There are also in excess of 7000 people buried on the site. I was able to catalogue 3 individual burial areas with headstones, but was unable to really know the extent of the burial areas, or where the other burial areas were situated. From what I read there was a Jewish Cemetery, a Plague Cemetery and a burial area where diseased animals were buried.  My last visit was in late November last year, and I recall that I did feel that all it really took was the wrong person at the wrong time with the wrong motive. 

The irony is that squatters will not even settle on this piece of land, so it must have something to hide? 
However, I did receive a link today that pointed to somebody who was going to develop on this site. There was mention of two schools, a community and youth centre, low cost housing, a police station and so forth. All, at no cost to the government. Assuming the link doesn’t go down you can read about it here . I can hear myself saying “I told you so” all the way in the UK! (Link still active 03/2016)
I won’t comment further, except to say that when they turn the soil I want to be very far away. I don’t know what the life of pathogens is like in soil, but I don’t think I would like to find out, because the people who are buried at Rietfontein did not die of old age, and it wasn’t called an infectious diseases hospital because they didn’t have another name for it. 
Let us see how far this goes. I bet that quite a few people are smiling all the way to the bank already. 
© DRW 2013-2018. Images recreated and links repaired 09/03/2016
Updated: 29/12/2017 — 07:23
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