The Liesbeek River – a “neglected stormwater gutter” or a “powerful historic symbol”?

24 October 2020 | by Leslie London | Cape Town, South Africa

On Monday 26th October, the Observatory Civic Association and many other objectors will submit appeals to the City over its rezoning decision to permit the construction of a mini-Century City on the River Club grounds owned the Liesbeek Leisure Property Trust (LLPT), a decision made by a special Municipal Planning Tribunal hastily convened on 18th September, two-and-a-half years after the developers first submitted their application.

One of the key elements to the development proposal is that LLPT will infill the existing course of the Liesbeek River adjacent to the River Club and transform an existing artificial canal into a pretend-Liesbeek River, nicely landscaped and lined for joggers, walkers and, presumably, any Khoi ceremonies that can be conducted on an artificial river course.  This is a peculiar logic, since the LLPT’s own Heritage Impact Assessment (HIA)  stated that “… the one heritage feature of high significance that has been identified is the Liesbeek River corridor itself and the confluence which is … a powerful historic symbol that refers to the early landscape of pre-colonial transhumance use, colonial settlement and agriculture and contestation.”