Urgent Press Conference: First Nations, Civics and other Civil Society Organisations call for heritage grading of the Two Rivers Urban Park (TRUP)

Venue: South African Astronomical Observatory Auditorium
Date and Time: Tues 17 Dec 2019 at 10 AM.

Members of the media are invited to join an urgent press conference about the controversial R4 billion development proposal by Liesbeek Leisure Property Trust (LLPT) at the River Club in Observatory, Cape Town, on sacred Khoi and San ground, and the draft Two Rivers Local Spatial Development Framework (LSDF) issued by the City of Cape Town for comment due on 17 December.

The proposed development at the River Club (predominantly commercial office blocks with only a 4% affordable housing commitment, with a development footprint of 210 000 m2 on a 15-hectare site, twice the density of Century City) is seemingly supported via an unhealthy ‘collusion’ between the City of Cape Town, the Western Cape Government, and the River Club developers. The development will place blocks of between 24 and 47m tall onto the floodplain, on land that is yet to be graded for its heritage significance. Once it is concreted over, there is no recovering lost intangible heritage.

This is the most significant heritage battle in South Africa as the site of the proposed development is:

  1. the ancestral home to various Khoi groups with a history that dates back to the earliest human habitation.
  2. where the first free burgher farms were established in 1657 by the Dutch East India Company (VOC).
  3. where the first Frontier War in 1659 took place between the Dutch and the Khoi Khoi.
  4. where Jan Van Riebeek erected his iron fence on the banks of the Liesbeeck River.
  5. where the first slaves brought by the VOC from Java; Goa, India; Madagascar and Angola were deployed to till the topsoil of these farms.

The site is profoundly rich in pre-colonial history and occupies a particular place in Khoi cosmology, but has also been the site of repeated genocidal actions against indigenous people of the area. It is also a site of considerable environmental significance as an open space and green lung for the City, home to at least one endangered species of animal, and the site of the significant potential for groundwater recharge to render Cape Town more water resilient in the face of future impacts of climate change.

For these reasons, over 25 civic and environmental organizations and a number of key First Nations Paramount Chiefs and indigenous groups will announce their combined application for Provincial Heritage Status for the TRUP; and their objection to the proposed River Club.

According to the Observatory Civic Association chairperson, Leslie London, the “new TRUP LSDF has essentially incorporated the developer’s idea of development in the River Club area, almost word for word. This means the City is essentially changing the rules under which the River Club application to rezone will be considered in the future. By the time they apply, it will be much easier to rezone the River Club site to enable their development”.

In 2003, the City of Cape Town signed an agreement on the 2003 TRUP framework – the Cape Conservation agreement – but is now in violation of this agreement by changing the District Plan and the LSDF on TRUP for a single development. The City of Cape Town also signed an agreement with the Kingdom of the Netherlands on the TRUP. In that agreement, it states the environmental conservation of riverine systems and biodiversity. The proposed development is in violation of this agreement.

Further, the site of the proposed development is currently on the tentative list of the Department of Culture, Art and Sport proposed to UNESCO as part of a Liberation and Resistance Route commemorating the Frontier Wars and the 1510 battle where the Khoi defeated the Portuguese.

From 1659, a series of wars over time resulted in the permanent dispersal of the Khoi and San, which precipitated into 16 Khoi wars over a 150-year period. The colonial intrusion resulted in the genocide of the Cape San, and sacred animals such as the Cape Lion, Quagga, and Blue Buck and the devastation of the renosterveld in the area.

This is a ground zero precinct where the wounds of South Africa’s past are seen today in the transgenerational trauma that sits on the Cape Flats and felt across the Southern African landscape. This ancient terrain is of the last natural open space habitats with a specific genius loci of Khoi spiritual cosmological well-being.

Issued by:
Tauriq Jenkins
Supreme High Commissioner: Goringhaicona Khoena Council, and
Member of the Management Committee: Observatory Civic Association
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