Update on the River Club development

Dear friends and supporters

I am writing to you to update you on the River club development

1. The Court process:

– As you know, Judge Patricia Goliath delivered a groundbreaking judgement on March 18th to halt the construction at the River Club site pending the High Court review of the rezoning and Environmental Authorisations decisions. She also ordered that there should be meaningful consultation in recognition of the failure of existing processes to recognise the living heritage of the site.

– The developers applied for leave to appeal the interdict but on May 5th, Judge Goliath refused leave to appeal as there were no convincing grounds that another court would come to a different decision.

– The developers have now indicated they will apply to petition the Supreme Court. We have not heard further if they have applied.

– In the meanwhile, the Review Hearing is rolling out. The City and Province have just submitted their documents (grounds for decision) so we have a short period to submit our case, to which they reply and then we submit our final responses and it then waits for a date in court. The documents we have to review are more than 100 000 pages!

– So, we will be under a lot of pressure in the meanwhile. We are particularly grateful to our attorneys and advocates who are doing monumental work in navigating a very complex legal application.

2. The consequences of the LLPT’s reckless infill of the river valley:

– In the meantime, the developers have announced on Facebook they are effecting some repairs to the river, which they claim are in line with the approved EMPr. It’s not entirely clear that is the case. What they are doing is rectifying the disastrous situation they have created by infilling the old Liesbeek channel (which has severely aggravated the flood risk to adjacent properties and the risk of damage to the site) and they are repairing parts of the canal wall that had collapsed following work on the site.

– In their usual obfuscating communications, they have claimed they are doing “critical work” in the Black River, Liesbeek River and Liesbeek Canal, “and on the tapestry of City of Cape Town-owned immovable properties that surround the River Club site” that is “in compliance with the approved Environmental Management Programme (EMPr) in place for the rehabilitation and upgrade of the area.”

– In fact, what they are doing is preventing an environmental disaster when the winter floods arrive, which is entirely a situation of their own doing by recklessly proceeding with the infill of the Liesbeek River Channel and the construction work on the canal side and Black River while the interdict was still being considered. Note that they commenced with the infill of the Liesbeek River AFTER the interdict was heard in court in January, so they were fully aware that the ongoing construction was at their own risk. By infilling the Liesbeek and starting to excavate alongside the canal, they have created a flood disaster risk – including for homeowners and businesses situated in the lower parts of Observatory where stormwater will back up because it will not be able to be carried in the Liesbeek since its brutal infilling. It is entirely predictable that this was a disaster in the making so it is entirely appropriate that the LLPT take responsibility for it.

– The ‘tapestry of City of Cape Town-owned immovable properties that surround the River Club site’ is also an admission that their development hinges on the City making available public land (including the river course) for their development to proceed.

– The developer’s hubris extends to calling this a victory because they will require workers to conduct this work – as if they are creating jobs. But that is entirely as it should be since they created this mess in the first place.

– We will update you as soon as we hear further.

3. There are very rich resources on our FaceBook page:

– I also invite you to visit the FB page of the Liesbeek Action Campaign where you will see a wide variety of comments and testimonies. For example, I draw your attention to the powerful testimony from !Aru||Khuisi |Xam Chief Piet Barendse of the Kalahari |Xam, about why this particular piece of land is of such importance.

He states (translated from Afrikaans): “I’m !Aru||Khuisi Piet Berendse, I’m from the Kalahari, originally from up home in Upington. But from the start of the court case, I have been in the Cape. So, the reason why I’m standing here today in front of the buildings of the Liesbeek – where the buildings are being built. The reason why I’m speaking from my heart as a bushman, as a product of nature, as a product of the earth, I’m standing here to make my plea to our people. This place is a historical place for the values of our ancestors who walked along here. Such a place is very important for us to practice our cultural values, ​​here. So, this place is exemplary of our values, ​​where we can pass them on to the next generation.
This place is an important place for our heritage. This place carries the message of our values, carries the message for me as an example, standing in Cape Town today to send this image out to the world. So, this is a court case. We want this court case to end, to come to an end. We want to bring back the values, we want the truth. We want this thing, at end of the day, if I was no longer standing here, this should belong to my children’s children’s children’s children one day, to carry on our tradition our culture, our heritage and our values.”

4. A Public Meeting on what heritage, the environment and starlore means for the River Club and for our future:

– Lastly, please also feel free to attend a public discussion we are holding this Thursday at 4pm at the Observatory Community Centre Hall, Rawson Rd. The discussion will explore the links between heritage,the environment and starlore and what this means for our future, as it pertains to the River Club site – a sacred site under threat from the development. Speakers from the SAAO, FOL, the Khoi and San Unit at UCT and a community climate and food activist.

5. And lastly upon lastly, if you are able to assist us financially to support the court challenges:

– You can donate online, by EFT and by Snapscan.

– Donations to this campaign are eligible for a Section 18A SARS receipt towards tax deduction. Please alert [email protected] if you need a tax receipt for the current financial year.

Feel free to share this appeal with others, and if you have suggestions or potential funders, please email [email protected].

You can find much more information on our website and at our petition site and you are welcome to follow the Liesbeek Action Campaign on twitter: @LiesbeekAction.


Leslie London