Update 9th December 2020
On the 27th February 2020, more than 60 First Nation groups, Civic Associations, and Non-Governmental Organisations joined together in a historic show of unity to apply to Heritage Western Cape for grading the Two Rivers Urban Park as a Provincial Heritage Site. On the 6th of December, partners again came together to reaffirm our commitment to heritage protection for the whole Two Rivers Urban Park (TRUP), including the River Club site. A press conference at the Oude Molen millstone was called by the Goringhicona, taking place after their weekend-long !nau ceremony, a traditional rite of passage, and after their AGM. The site is also the location of the Goringhaicona kraal which hosts a traditional herb garden, established long before the LLPT dreamt up the idea as a justification for their monster development on the River Club site.
We recommitted ourselves to the protection of the areas because of the site’s immense heritage significance, tracking thousands of years of pre-colonial history and the often-ignored history of resistance by indigenous peoples against colonial intrusion. The confluence of the Two Rivers is a sacred ancestral First Nations site. It is a site of spiritual rejuvenation, a place where the people of the world can better understand the cosmos of the Khoi if the site is allowed to celebrate its intangible heritage.
The Khoi refer to it as |Gamirodi, the place of the stars, because the open space allows a connection to the heavens as much as it connects people to the land and to the river, a source of life. Stars are what brought the South African Astronomical Observatory to the highest point alongside the river and the Observatory is now officially a National Heritage Site and a candidate for a UNESCO heritage site. How exactly are we expected to see stars if the glare from the office lights of Amazon’s 44m tall behemoth building pollutes the night-time environment? Alongside the other seventeen buildings, all ranging from 20m to 44m high, the stars will have a hard time ruling this sky view.
It is shameful that authorities think they can dispense with a heritage like the garbage LLPT claims are accumulating on their golf course every day.
Heritage Western Cape is yet to move on the grading. During the early lockdown, they were unable to process any applications. But the HWC Inventories, Grading and Interpretation Committee (IGIC) was finally able to meet on the 7th of August. However, they deferred discussion of our Heritage Grading application pending the finalization of the Heritage Impact Assessment for the Two River Local Spatial Development Framework, a framework that the City has tried to rush through in the last year. The current LSDF renders the River Club development entirely contrary to policy. A new LSDF could have provided a planning framework that could have endorsed the River Club development by changing the rules to suit the development without the bothersome business of having to apply for rezoning. As we know, when the LSDF was held up, the River Club went ahead with their rezoning application anyway, ably supported by planning officials who chose not to re-advertise, and by an MPT blinkered to key information that rendered the rezoning contrary to policy. So, they didn’t need the LSDF to get around the rules.
Nevertheless, the TR-LSDF HIA served before the Impact and Assessment Committee (IACOM) of HWC on 9th October 2020. They roundly rejected the HIA as failing to meet the requirements of the National Heritage Resources Act. The IACOM comments were consistent with the criticisms of many stakeholders and their criticisms highlighted the willingness of the HIA to retrofit the HIA to enable acceptance of the River Club development.
This means that both the TR-LSDF HIA and the River Club HIA has been sent packing by HWC for being inadequate in addressing heritage concerns and failing to meet legal requirements.
The OCA has now written to HWC to clarify what they plan to do regarding our application. In particular, we have expressed our concern that the TR LSDF HIA made use of a so-called expert report (by AFMAS) on First Nation culture and identity that labeled the Goringhaicona, one of the First Nations parties firmly opposed to the River Club development, as ‘drifters’ and ‘outcasts’. Moreover, the AFMAS report also misrepresents first nation history in attempting to dismiss the Gorinhaicona as “neither a tribe nor a clan but a totally new creation” and that only the Gorinhaiqua, who only appeared in the process in 2019 as supporters of the River Club development, “were the traditional custodians of the historical landscape that encompasses the River Club site and broader Two Rivers area.” This is the same group who have bought into the LLPT offer of a media center, a traditional herb garden, and Khoi imagery used in the 150 000 square meters of concrete development. How convenient.
It is this kind of divide and rule tactic that was singled out as particularly problematic in the Heritage Appeal Tribunal Directive that upheld HWC’s provisional protection order over the River Club in April 2020. This was an order bitterly contested by supporters of the development. Not surprisingly, detractors are now gearing up to challenge part of the Appeal Tribunal directive, a directive which speaks truth to power, and power does not like being spoken to in such forthright terms…
HWC’s response to the TR-LSDF made it clear that the TRUP requires heritage grading but what was not clear was who would do the grading and what process and documentation would inform such grading. We believe that any grading of the TRUP cannot start from a point where a First Nations Report is used to denigrate and marginalize authentic First Nations leaders who oppose the River Club development using misrepresentations of history. The AFMAS report must be put aside as it is a partisan view of Khoi history that attempts to justify the LLPT development.
Our Press Conference on the 6th heard how the area could host a World Heritage Site where the people of the world could better understand the cosmos of the Khoi people. Rather than being a mindless concrete edifice to greed, the entire area could be a place of healing for all South Africans and undo the injustices of the past. We owe that to ourselves and we owe that to the world.