Feedback from the OCA Chair on the Tribunal hearing of the River Club

The Ministerial Appeal Tribunal met on Friday 13th March to consider an appeal by the River Club developer, the City of Cape Town and two provincial government departments (Transport and Public Works; Environmental Affairs and Development Planning) against Heritage Western Cape’s Provisional Protection Order on the River Club. The order was issued in April 2018 and the appeal has dragged since then, first meeting in October, then various meetings since. Yesterday was meant to be the last meeting of the process. The order expires in 2020.

Since the OCA, with many First Nations groups, Civics, and NGOs, has lodged an application for provincial heritage grading of the Two Rivers Urban Park, the lapsing of the Order may be moot as a new process should kick in.

But the meeting happened under a cloud of invective and intimidation directed any those opposing the development. In the lead up to the meeting, parties that have opposed the development have been libeled in a series of three increasingly defamatory documents distributed publicly to a very wide range of people. The documents purport to come from the Xarra Aboriginal Restorative Justice Forum but the letterhead is fraudulent, as confirmed the Forum. In total, about 20 people or more are called thieves, fakes, gay dogs, descendants of colonialists, collaborators, perpetrators of institutional violence who will be held to account, fabricators, misfits, inkruipers, conmen, fugitives, fronts, snake oil salesmen, desperados, extortionist, scam artist, fraud, hypocrite and hijackers. The common denominator is that we have all been part of the application to have the TRUP graded as a provincial heritage site or have been publicly opposed to the development. Also libeled is the chair of the HWC Impact Assessment Committee that issued the highly critical rebuttal of the River Club’s HIA and even the Chair of the Tribunal is smeared in the document. However, the document singles out Tauriq Jenkins for especially abusive treatment but both Marc Turok and Leslie London are named as well. We are purportedly guilty of abusing and misusing statutory heritage processes with malicious intent to deny First Nation heritage and Indigenous Rights and we are warned we will be held “accountable” whatever that means.  So, it seems it is open season to target us. For some of those who want to see the development go ahead, there is no depth too low to which they will sink to try to get their way, even if it is illegal.

And illegal it is because the documents are highly defamatory, containing false accusations. Those affected are busy taking legal action.

But while the documents are presented as anonymous, there is one problem for the author. The metadata on all three files indicates Rudewaan Arendse as the author. He is the River Club’s heritage consultant, employed to neutralize the gaping hole in the River Club’s application for lack of Khoi support. So, there is a clear link between the developer’s consultant and our being defamed. The developer will have to explain himself.

What transpired at the tribunal yesterday was that there were submissions made by various of the appellants and Interested and Affected Parties. Interestingly, one of the pro-development Khoi leaders that appeared is one Ernie Lastig Solomons, a supposedly reformed gangster who is now a reborn Khoi Activist. Tauriq has been threatened and has secured a court order to protect himself against violence and intimidation. The presence of a supposedly a reformed gangster, in the climate of an intimidation ruling, is very, very worrying. That the developer has, on his side, a person associated with the criminal underworld, is both bizarre but also very intimidating to all.

There were a number of submissions, both in favor and against the development. Our argument that this development will annihilate the intangible heritage of the site still stands. The arguments in favor of the development did not provide convincing heritage-based arguments but rather relied on claims that the defense of the development was an act of cultural agency, an elaboration of various Khoi groups emerging to join the so-called First Nations Collective and the notion that the River Club development would provide jobs to Khoi people.  None of these explain how infilling the plain and laying 150 000 m sq of concrete will be compatible with heritage protection.   Zenzile attempted to claim to the meeting that he had been threatened by Tauriq but it is Tauriq who has been threatened by Zenzile, to the extent a Magistrate has issued a protection order in Tauriq’s favor. The level of intimidation now layering this process is intense.

When I presented, ( See Full text HERE ) I noted why the protection order is justified, outlining why an imminent threat to heritage existed. I also exposed the role of the developer’s heritage consultant, Rudewaan Arendse being the name on the metadata of the three seemingly anonymous files that tried to undermine opponents of the development and asked the Tribunal to reject the heritage report he produced for the River Club as he is irrevocably tainted by bias in handling of the issue. I also questioned the role of the DTPW official who circulated these defamatory documents. Rudewaaan managed to be outside the room when I made these statements. Notably, neither Jody nor Smith his lawyer contradicted anything I said in the room. Marc outlined the planning issues and then Tauriq made a mesmeric and powerful intervention arguing why the development could not be remotely consistent with Khoi cosmology and heritage. Kheobaha Arendse of the Khoi Korana Trans-Frontier presented briefly and alerted the room to his communication with a senior police general in the province – as if to counterbalance the somewhat threatening presence of gang culture in the room.  The afternoon ended with various inputs from I&APs, both for and against the development. 

The Tribunal will receive the last comments in a week and then come to a finding. We will share that when it is released.

Leslie London – OCA Chair