Cape Town’s heritage for sale: Brownwashing The River Club

If greenwashing is disinformation disseminated to present an environmentally responsible public image, what the developers of The River Club project are engaging in might be called brownwashing — falsely presenting themselves as promoters of indigenous rights.

Liesbeek Leisure Properties Trust claims “the majority of the Cape’s Khoi and San leaders and representatives” are in support of its R4.5-billion project to infill the land at the Liesbeek River and build luxury apartments, shopping centres and offices of up to 10 storeys, where tech monopoly Amazon will be the anchor tenant.

In fact, it is opposed more than substantially by a vast range of Khoi and San groups in the Western Cape, nationally and in southern Africa. The list includes the Goringhaicona, Kai Korana Transfrontier Land and Heritage, the Cochoqua Traditional Authority, the Khoi and San Kingdom Council of Southern Africa, the !Aman Traditional Council, the !KhoraIIgauIIaes Council, the IKhowese Nama Traditional Council, the National House of iXam San, Komani, Khwe Bushmen, IIXegwi iXam, Guriqua, Hawequa, !Xau-Sakwa, Sonqua, Karoo iXam, Kalahari iXam, !Xun, Ubiqua, the House of Klaas and the House of Dawid Stuurman.

The notion of “consent” peddled by the developer is clearly being misrepresented, if not outright violated.

They’re joined by revivalist umbrella organisations such as the First Indigenous Nation of Southern Africa, the Democratic Federation of Indigenous People SA, the A|Xarra Restorative Justice Forum and the Western Cape Khoisan Legislative Council. In addition, more than 56,000 people have signed a petition opposing the project and more than 60 organisations support the bestowal of heritage status on the site.

Now the Goringhaicona Khoi Khoin Indigenous Traditional Council and Observatory Civic Association have applied to the courts for an urgent interdict to halt construction so the sacred floodplain can be protected as a heritage precinct….

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