Mmegi Online :: Receding Gaborone Dam waters expose church ruins
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Friday 21 September 2018, 15:09 pm.
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Receding Gaborone Dam waters expose church ruins

The ruins of a church believed to be Roman Catholic and around 86-years-old, have been discovered on the eastern banks of the Gaborone Dam, uncovered by the receding water.
By Mbongeni Mguni Fri 28 Nov 2014, 17:23 pm (GMT +2)
Mmegi Online :: Receding Gaborone Dam waters expose church ruins








With the dam now below 5.6 percent and at a historic low, objects previously unseen in the years after its construction in 1964 are slowly coming into view.

Earlier this year, members of the Gaborone Yacht Club began noticing brick and mortar patterns around the eastern banks, which in later months could be clearly seen as an altar.

A Mmegi news crew found several decaying brick and mortar structures spread along a compound-like region of the dam shores yesterday. While some of the structures were composed of collapsed rubble, others stood upright, pointing to their original purpose within the church.

One of the structures appears to be an altar while another bears the likeness of a foundational stone or plaque with the date ‘1928’ carved into it.  The extent of the compound is unclear as it appears further structures could still be beneath the water line.

Yacht Club members, quoting local historians, suspect the ruins could be the remains of a mission established in 1928 by the Catholic Church and originally staffed by nuns in 1931.

“Some research on the internet about the early history of the Catholic Church revealed that a priest by the name of Fr. Vollmer was sent to the Kgale Mission in 1928,” the Club says.

“In 1931, the first nuns were sent to the mission and according to the research paper, they ran a dispensary from a ‘rondavel’.

“One of the rectangular buildings there remains a structure with the letters ‘JHS’ inscribed on it. “The letters JHS are likely to represent a Christogram, which is derived from the first three letters of the Greek name of Jesus.” Local historical archives suggest that the area where the ruins lie

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was owned by the Roman Catholic Church having been purchased by Bishop Herman Meysing in 1927 from a fellow Catholic, Patrick Lonergan.

The purchase took place in 1927, a year before the supposed construction of the now ruined church. Church records indicate that the area could have been part of Albini Farm, which was an area “reserved for whites” and thus not in the control of traditional chiefs, who allegedly refused to grant the Catholics land for the establishment of a mission.

With Mesying’s purchase in 1927, the first Catholic mission was established at St Joseph’s, upstream of Gaborone Dam, suggesting that the newly found ruins could be an out-station mentioned in the Catholic annals as having existed in the Kgale area.

Officials from the Department of National Museum Monuments and Art Gallery, however, are presently unaware of the ruins. “If it is from 1928, it could be quite important historically,” said deputy director, Stephen Mogotsi.

“Sites which date back to before 1902 are automatically treated as national monuments, but that does not mean anything coming later is of no importance; we actually have a number of monuments from the early 1900s. “What’s supposed to happen is that people should alert us and we will react immediately.”

With the site only being exposed by the receding waters, Mogotsi said the Department could be limited to simply recording its existence and location.

“We would be interested in studying its cultural and historical authenticity as well as importance, then take it from there,” he said. The ruins are expected to shed light on the entry of missionaries into southeastern Botswana, the later growth of Gaborone and even illuminate early land issues.

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