R4bn River Club developer ‘doesn’t have full consent of Khoi San’

An artist’s rendering of what would be a Heritage and Cultural Media Centre, as part of the controversial R4 billion development proposed by the Liesbeek Leisure Properties Trust, next to the Riverclub in Observatory. Image: Liesbeek Leisure Properties Trust

Cape Town – The developer of a controversial R4 billion development, near the River Club in Observatory, has defended the project.

The Liesbeek Leisure Properties Trust has proposed the construction of several 10-storey buildings and 11.7 hectares of building, in the middle of a 100-year-old flood plain.

The site accommodates seasonal migrating birds, and indigenous flora and fauna.

On Tuesday, more than 20 civic organisations and various First Nation paramount chiefs and indigenous groups announced their combined application for the site’s provincial heritage status.

The Trust’s Jody Aufrichtig said they were unsure of the motives behind the opposition’s arguments.

“We can only infer that it’s an attempt to block concerted efforts by the developer to responsibly address the continued injustices of apartheid spatial planning, under the guide of heritage concerns.

“In respect of the River Club, a comprehensive Heritage Application process, in terms of section 38 of the National Heritage Resources Act, is currently under way and all interested and affected parties, including civic and environmental organisations, have had numerous opportunities to participate and submit their comments,” he said.

Aufrichtig added that they worked closely with First Nation leaders.

Heritage Western Cape had previously resolved to provisionally protect the site. The Trust, the City, the Department of Transport and Public Works and the Department of Environmental Affairs and Development Planning have lodged appeals against the provisional protection.

Observatory Civic Association chairperson, Leslie London said: “If Jody Aufrichtig believes his development is consistent with heritage protection, why does he want to stop Heritage Western Cape (HWC) from grading the site?

“Aufrichtig has made huge profits out of the Biscuit Mill, a project which has contributed to the gentrification of Woodstock and accelerated the exclusion of the most vulnerable in that community, but is now claiming to be reinvented as an advocate for social inclusion, and a friend of the Khoi people. We do not think so.”

Goringhaicona Khoena Council high commissioner, Tauriq Jenkins said: “Aufrichtig is propagating a false narrative that he has the full consent of the Khoi and San, through a recently formed small collection of traditional leaders, that ostensibly has been formed for the purposes of legitimising his development.

“The endemic custodianship of the precinct is shared with other Khoi sovereign houses, which include the Goringhaicona, Cochoqua and Korana Trans-Frontier, who are all seriously concerned about the development and the heritage threat being posed.

“Our heritage will not be sold nor will it be bought.”

Cape Times