16 JUN 2021 —
Today the people’s voice was heard in Cape Town. The Voice of the Goringhaicona. The Voice of the !Aman Traditional Authority. The Voice of the Kai Korana Trans frontier. The Voice of the A|XARRA Restorative Justice Forum. The Voice of the Salt River Heritage Society. The Voice of the BoKaap Civic Association. The Voice of the Observatory Civic Association. The Voice of Activists, including an Imam, a poet, a Reverend, another poet, a young person. People came from inner Cape Town. People came from the Cape Flats. People came from Langa and the townships. People came from Stellenbosch. People came from Oudtshoorn. All saying the same thing. This development on the Liesbeek cannot proceed. 50 000 voices matter. No to Amazon. No to heritage insult. No to destruction of an environmentally sensitive floodplain. No the colonial legacy that continues to allow injustice to occur.
We marched today from the Bokaap museum, down to Jan Smuts’ statue, where the contradiction between honouring a colonial leader with a statue outside the Museum located in the old Slave Lodge was brought home to us as one of the many ways in which indigenous people’s history and oppression is obliterated from memory by ‘progress’. The same way Amazon will sit astride the total destruction of the sacred Liesbeek Valley.
We then moved down Adderley St, stopping to honour and acknowledge the flower sellers who have contributed to the living heritage of our City despite their marginalisation and struggle at the hands of City policies. We ended at the statue of Jan van Riebeek where the call was made to remove colonial statues and replace them with statues commemorating leaders of First Nations who resisted the colonists. Both Smuts and Van Riebeek were ceremonially draped in plastic bags to signal the need to rethink the public icons we value. And we handed over to the representative of the Mayor of Cape Town a box with the petition and your comments – to demand that the City accept that it cannot sell the heritage of the Khoi to the highest bidder. It cannot destroy a flood plain and infill a sacred river in the name of consumerist progress that will benefit elites. It cannot paralyse our ability to maintain resilience in the face of Climate Change by removing the last green belt in this City.
June 16th celebrates South Africa’s youth and their incredible resistance against the apartheid regime. How can youth today celebrate their heritage and history if corporates can get away with destroying indigenous heritage in the same way that van Riebeek did four centuries ago? Amazon must cease their re-colonisation of the Liesbeek valley.
Our gathering was limited to 100 participants due the intensification of COVID-19 measures announced by President Ramaphosa the night before our walk. But that meant that every walker was walking to represent 500 people. 500 voices united. Multiply by 100 and you have 50 000 and more.
As Alan Boesak said “50 000 voices shouting from the rooftops … standing together … saying no [to Amazon], saying yes to our children, to our future and to the sacredness of our places in our history.”
It’s time the City and the Department of Environmental Affairs and Development Planning woke up. Communities, Civics, NGOs and Indigenous Khoi organisations will not accept this development. Thousands of us. Tens of thousands of us. All of us.
Please support us to take the rezoning and environmental authorisation decision to the High Court on review. To achieve justice, we need your support. Please donate at our fundraising site here.
Make the Liesbeek Matter.