What the LLPT and Amazon think of a National Heritage Site: ripe for ‘Corporate Plunder’

9 AUG 2021 —

Notwithstanding the fact that Heritage Western Cape recently identified the Two Rivers Urban Park as a likely National Heritage Resource, the Liesbeek Leisure Property Trust (LLPT) are wasting no time in getting concrete onto the ground as soon as possible. The picture above shows just what they think of this National Heritage Site.

The Observatory Civic Association (OCA) and the Goringhaicona Khoi-Khoin Indigenous Traditional Council are going to court on the 16th August to stop this destruction from proceeding whilst the High Court reviews the authorisations granted by the City of Cape Town and the Western Cape Provincial Government.

When the Mail and Guardian reported that we are seeking an interdict to stop the redevelopment, LLPT responded by saying our court action was an “opportunistic attempt by a handful of misplaced activists.”

“Opportunistic” in the Oxford Dictionary is defined as “exploiting immediate opportunities, especially regardless of planning or principle.” The OCA and those opposing the redevelopment have always stood on principle – that this redevelopment is bad for the environment and will destroy the intangible heritage of the area. On the other hand, when the LLPT were informed of our lawful appeal to the Minister of Water Affairs, Sanitation and Human Settlements, which triggered an automatic suspension of their Water Use Licence, they immediately wrote to the Minister to request her to lift the suspension. It appears that as soon as the Minister lifted the suspension, LLPT’s bulldozers rolled on to the site, regardless of the fact that they know we are seeking a High Court Review to allow the court to decide. This action on the part of the LLPT seems to be a flagrant example of “exploiting immediate opportunities, especially regardless of planning or principle.”

As it turns out, we have yet to see the Minister’s decision or her reasons for lifting the suspension, despite asking the LLPT and the Minister to provide it, so we don’t know if the LLPT are actually in violation of the license suspension or not.

Today is National Women’s Day in South Africa, a day we acknowledge the struggles of women for justice and equality in our country.

I invite you to read Pregs Govender’s account of why it is so important that we are “Preserving ‘the Place of the Stars’ from corporate plunder.” She points out that the current draft of the Transnational Corporate Accountability and Human Rights Treaty asserts that “State parties must ensure that they integrate a gender perspective, in consultation with potentially impacted women and women’s organisations; conduct meaningful consultations with individuals or communities whose human rights can potentially be affected by business activities, and with other relevant stakeholders, while giving special attention to those facing heightened risks of business-related human rights abuses… such as women and indigenous peoples, and that consultations with indigenous peoples are undertaken in accordance with the internationally agreed standards of free, prior and informed consent.”

There are other letters of support on our website written by women who do not back down in the face of injustice. Please take a moment to read their letters and the affidavit from Deidre Prins-Solani who, as an independent expert on intangible cultural heritage, asserts that “the significance and values of the living heritage elements associated with the site must fundamentally inform any development plan, as opposed to being last-minute mitigating additions.” Rather, she continues “a clearer articulation between the living heritage and heritage resources associated with the site, and the United Nations sustainable development goals should be made and integrated by the developer into a broader business model or plan.”

Now is the time to Make the Liesbeek Matter.