Malta Park & Hartleyvale – A Tale of Three Cities and a Civic

Currently involving the City of Cape Town, Cape Town City Soccer Club, FC Kapstaadt, the issue at Hartleyvale is one that centralises the political and historical layers of the Mother City. This nexus of the Capetonian debate is infused with sensitivities on privatisation, injustice, fencing, leasing, lack of public consultation, the desires of a large stadium, and the current refurbishment of a multi purpose open space at the expense of the local residents. It is the microcosm of the larger picture. It is a condensed master class of our living history as South Africans. The Observatory Civic Association is contesting some of these issues, in order to defend a piece of land whose memory and history deserves better, much better.

Let’s start at the beginning. The banks Liesbeeck River was the site of the first battle between the Goringhaiqua and the Portuguese in 1510. It was a blistering defeat of the soldier D’Almeida and his men by this group indigenous to Observatory earmarking the first patriot battle against an attempted colonial conquest. In 1656, along these banks here in Observatory, Jan Van Riebeeck who named the Liesbeek River, set up the first fence, the first demarcation for farms which resulted in the first land grab, and the beginnings of a system of forced removal, and war, that would forever shape the future of South Africa.

Now, on Malta Park, its a tale of Three Cities and A Civic. A fence was erected on Malta Park at the end of last year by the City without consultation with the residents of Observatory. This fence is linked to a lease signed by the City to Cape Town City Sports Club, which is being contested by FC Kaapstadt. This precinct is a site of immense cultural, and heritage significance. It is a site of the first multi-racial cricket activity, a place where World War 1 veterans started a soccer club, only to be removed by the City in the early 90’s when the adjacent Black River Park was leased to Adidas. A pavilion was promised must to no avail. The club in its current manifestation is in Maitland. It is a field that has been freely roamed by residents, families, lovers, friends and animals.

Malta Park is not just any park that can be treated this way. It encompasses a history of the ebb and flow of South Africa’s history. Its immediate and adjacent territory is a living memory of a silenced history of mankind. The origins that pre-dates the fence by Riebeeck, and place that has witnessed from its earliest inception the evolution of the South African psyche. The battle of Malta is not just a question of irresponsible doq walkers, security concerns, or a Water Distribution Point as propagated by various officials, it is for the soul of an intangible history that is threatened in the same way it was threatened 350 years ago. With its immense significance, its extraordinary history, Malta is a field of dreams that the people of Observatory treasure.

We will never surrender.

– Tauriq Jenkins, Obs Civic Association Chairperson