Dear Obs residents – a word from our Chair

Dear Observatory residents,

I am writing to alert you to the very good news about the River Club and to update you on work on COVID-19 in Observatory. Forgive me if this communication is a little long.

1. The outcome of the Heritage Appeal Tribunal considering the appeal against provisional protection of the River Club – Fantastic News! (READ THE DOCUMENT HERE)

On the 14 April 2020, after almost two years, the Ministerial Appeal Tribunal considering the appeal by the River Club Developers, supported by the City of Cape Town, and two provincial departments (DEADP and DTPW) came to a thunderous conclusion – that the Appeal had no merit and that the HWC decision “to provisionally protect the resource in terms of section 29 of the NHRA is upheld and shall remain in force. The appeal is therefore dismissed.”   The full directive is attached.

In dismissing the appeal, the Tribunal directive rebutted all of the Appellants’ arguments.  For example, the “effect of delaying development somewhat” was described as a “small price to pay, considering the benefits and gains of conducting a proper heritage assessment of the conservation needs and investigating the protection of heritage resources.” One of the key arguments by the Appellants was that there was already a process under Section 38 of the National Heritage Resources Act which should preclude any provisional protection (under Section 29 of the National Heritage Resources Act) because a parallel process would be a fruitless duplication of functions and wasteful expenditure. The Tribunal found there was no merit in this argument – in law, one process does preclude another.

So, the Tribunal came down firmly in support of recognizing the very high heritage significance of the site and for the need to investigate prior to any development decisions being made. It also recognized that, despite its shortcomings, the processes gave First nation peoples and communities a voice to articulate their case for heritage conservation and protection for the first time. In that it was historic.

The Tribunal directive also noted how “political posturing” and “alliances” involving different government entities and the developers had soured the process. It drew attention to the fact that some public officials “did not serve the interests of their departments, the CoCT or the public interest and their conduct warrants review and censure, where appropriate.” Scarce resources, the directive said, should be used to “cooperatively solve complicated heritage issues cooperatively” which did not occur. It also made reference to the divide and rule tactics at play in the process.

These are all very powerful statements and we hope this will be a lesson to all concerned, those holding public office and those with resources to spend on endless legal obstruction, that justice will win in the end.  We live in a Constitutional democracy which allows for all views to be put on the table but not for some to count more than others because of access to power or money.

During COVID-19, it’s a time of deep introspection about what we are as a society and how we unite to solve common problems. Let’s hope this spirit continues after the COVID-19 restrictions are eased so that we can resolve the heritage challenges related to TRUP and the River Club in the same spirit.

2. What is happening with work on COVID-19 in Observatory
– update from the OCA and other Obs Community groups

2.1. The homeless

The situation of the homeless has been a big concern for many people in Observatory and across the Cape Town Metro. We have organized feeding and other support for the different homeless groups in the areas as part of a humanitarian response following the lockdown. This is part of a wider citizen-driven initiative (Cape Town CAN) to protect the most vulnerable in society under the threat of COVID-19. Inexplicably, the City has set up a mass relocation center at Strandfontein sports complex and moved about 1500 or more homeless people there. However, all accounts suggest that the accommodation at Strandfontein is extremely problematic, there is no practical social distancing nor means to maintain themselves safely. Locating a mass number of people in a big center without adequate provision to handwash or distance (300 people per tent) increases risks for COVID-19 transmission. More worrying, a recent report (READ HERE) of a young woman being raped at the site raises the question about the adequacy of supervision and safety at the site.

The Observatory Civic Association has joined with other Civics (READ HERE) in calling on the City to adopt a decentralized approach and to work with local communities to support the homeless in local spaces, rather than a mass relocation, which, as we have seen, can have extremely dangerous consequences. This is how residents in Obs have been taking up the issue, though feeding and other support schemes. The Obs CAN have also called on the City to adopt a Shelter in Place (READ HERE) strategy by supporting homeless groups to socially distance safely where they are, a strategy the OCA has supported, along with another Obs

doing the rounds. Ndifuna Ukwazi has also written to the President to seek intervention to halt the relocation of homeless persons to Strandfontein whilst it remains a safety and health hazard. The City recently replied to a lawyer’s letter from the Legal Resources Centre confirming that no homeless person can be forced to relocate (READ HERE) to another site against their will.

If you want to get involved in this work, join the Obs CAN at FACEBOOK or fill out a form  HERE. The Obs CAN group working with the Homeless is at OBS CAN HOMELESS

2.2 Masks:

As you know, the Minister of Health has called on all people in South Africa to use cloth face masks to limit the spread of COVID-19. Remember, this measure is IN ADDITION to regular hand washing, use of sanitizers and social distancing, and does not replace these measures. Masks have to be made carefully and used safely ( READ HERE ) – meaning they should cover the nose and mouth, extend below your chin; don’t touch the mask while wearing; don’t share your mask with others and wash them with hot water and soap, then iron them, if you want to reuse them.

If you would like to access a cloth mask from the Obs CAN group assisting, then contact Sarah from Obs CAN at OBS CAN FACEMASK GROUP or at 073 307 0637.

They are not for sale, but we would appreciate donations being made, either (a) in the form of donating to them material (no T-shirt material, preferable cotton or linen) and elastics as supplies for making masks; or (b) financial donation to the Food Relief for various homeless groups being organized by Obs CAN. You can contribute to

Account holder: International Association for Human Values (IAHV)

Bank: First National Bank

Branch: 250737, Lenasia

Account: 62045616119

Reference: Obspasta + your name

But please remember that a face mask alone will NOT be enough to protect you from COVID-19. This will be a false sense of security. Please make sure to do all the other measures recommended.

2.3 Request for support for the staff running the Pepper Square parking lot
When the lockdown started, the OCA had to close the parking lot at Pepper Square behind Spar, meaning leaving the booms open while the staff has stayed home. The OCA decided to continue paying the wages for the staff for the duration of the three-week shut down as our commitment to helping to cushion the most marginal of our community from the hardships of the lockdown. However, the lockdown has now, as you well know, been extended for a further two weeks. We will struggle to extend support for a further two weeks as we do not have a stable income stream to support the staff.

The OCA is, therefore, appealing to Obs residents to assist us in continuing to support the three staff members by making whatever contribution you can, big or small, to the OCA to enable us to continue supporting our staff through this additional lockdown period.

Contributions can be made to:

Account holder: Observatory Civic Association

Bank: Standard Bank

Branch: Mowbray

Branch Code: 024909

Account No: 071348239

Reference: “Staff” + your surname

Please email your EFT donation confirmation to [email protected]

Please help us support staff who have loyally served the Obs community for many years.

2.4 Lastly, a reminder, if you are in need of help (shopping, medicines, food) but are unable or uncertain about heading out, or if you are in self-isolation, please contact Obs CAN for assistance at OBS CAN MUTUAL SUPPORT or email us at [email protected]

Communities are doing amazing work to address COVID-19. Let’s continue to make it happen. Obs CAN!

There are other important notices on our Website including notices from the City of Cape Town regarding additional financial relief to property owners and businesses.

Leslie London – OCA Chair