Iconic City Hall clock to tick again

Two months after Public Eye reported that Pietermaritzburg’s renowned City Hall clock was not working due to red-tape over a contract, Msunduzi Mayor Themba Njilo, who visited the clock tower, announced this week that he will ensure that the clock starts ticking again.
Braving his fear of heights, Njilo went on a tour of the clock tower on Monday and saw the full magnitude of the work that needed to be done to maintain the clock. He wants to ensure that the clock is working.
“I have been to the clock tower and it was a different experience. I have seen that it is a great task to have the clock wound. It needs to be wound three times a week for it to work. We want to ensure that the clock is working. I have had a meeting with the acting Municipal Manager Nelisiwe Ngcobo to ensure that there is no problem with the payment or contract in the future,” said Njilo.
The clock that has been a reliable source of time for 125 years has only been serviced by one family – the Webbers.
Local horologist and curator of the tower clock, Mark Webber, said the reason the clock was not working was because it was a wind-up clock that needed to be properly wound and maintained.
“There is absolutely nothing wrong with the clock. It just needs to be wound and maintenance needs to be conducted,” said the horologist, when Public Eye did the initial article.
Webber, who has been a horologist for over 40 years, said parts for the historic timepiece could not be easily sourced which meant that he had to engineer and craft the components himself.
“I make the parts on my own from scratch. It takes almost a week to repair. At the moment, one of the problems is the pigeons that nest in the clock,” said Webber.
He said he had not wound the clock as there had been “some administrative issues with his contract and payment” that was not resolved for several months.
The City Hall clock, originally constructed in 1893, is a national monument. It was destroyed by a fire in 1895 and rebuilt a few years later. The building is of immense historic value with struggle icons Nelson Mandela and Mahatma Gandhi both being accorded freedom of the city in April 1997. Mandela attended the event and accepted the award by Mayor Omar Latiff before himself conferring the same honour to Gandhi, posthumously.

  AUTHOR
Shorné Bennie

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