Khoisan divided over the River Club’s R4bn redevelopment

(Left to right) consultants Jeremy Jackson, Rudwaan Arendse, developer Jody Aufrichtig and leader of the Gorinhaiqua Cultural Council, and spokesperson for the First Nations Collective Zenzile Khoisan doing a site visit of the River Club. Picture: Marvin Charles/Cape Argus

Cape Town – Khoisan groups are divided over the controversial River Club redevelopment in Observatory.

Leader of the Gorinhaiqua Cultural Council and spokesperson for the First Nations Collective Zenzile Khoisan said: “The redeveloped River Club will see the establishment of a dedicated cultural, heritage and media center that commemorates and celebrates the First Nations history and futures. “There is currently no landmark in the city where First Nations are able to reclaim and share their heritage.” The First Nations Collective compromises of senior indigenous Khoisan leaders in the Peninsula. “Some groups have claimed to speak for the First Nations and are opposing the redevelopment. We reject these claims entirely.”

Today Heritage Western Cape (HWC) is expected to deliberate the final heritage impact assessment.

HWC instructed the Liesbeek Leisure Properties Trust a few months ago to prepare a report with the First Nations intangibles report which took six months to complete.

Consultant Rudewaan Arendse, who compiled the report, said the purpose was to concede to understanding the significance of the River Club to the First Nations. “One of the key things that has come out of this report is that the First Nations is saying that they are the sole owners of their narrative. If this is their history it’s theirs it’s not for others to use. We are talking about a living heritage if anyone is opposing this they are depriving the First Nations.”

Developer Jody Aufrichtig said he has tried to engage with the other groups opposing the development.

“I am not doing this for myself; this is for my kids and the next generation. The First Nation has been a great pleasure to work with. I don’t know what to expect from HWC. They need to make a decision whether they support it or not,” he said.

For seven years the community of Observatory has been objecting to plans to redevelop the River Club.

Residents have also raised concerns about how the proposed redevelopment on the banks of the river could have a negative impact on the environment and affect the significance of the area’s history.

The redevelopment of the River Club in Observatory is set to cost R4billion that will include residential, retail and commercial components, including a hotel, offices, conference centre and even schools.

Supreme high commissioner of the Goringhaicona Khoena Council Tauriq Jenkins said: “Let’s just be clear, that these individuals do not speak on behalf of the entire Khoisan, but themselves.

“If they wish to fraternise and play golf with the developer they are welcome to do, so but not on our behalf.”

Jenkins also rejected the collective’s view that they are trying to further their own agenda.

“This seems like a dismal attempt to divide and conquer. Our heritage will not be sold, nor will it not be bought. We outright reject this.”

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Cape Argus