So said Cllr Kevin Southgate at the unveiling of the Provincial Heritage Site Plaque on 12 October.
Cllr Southgate commented that he was fighting for Princess Vlei long before he was a councillor. ‘I remember standing on Prince George Drive with a placard reading, ‘No to the mall of death, Yes to the Princess.’
All the community’s efforts culminated in the decision by the city in 2014 when it agreed to stop the proposed development of the mall. When elected as ward councillor I committed myself to assisting and bringing to reality the people’s plan for princess vlei. Over the past six years the city has contributed millions as part of its commitment to the restoration and development of Princess Vlei Park,’ Cllr Southgate said.
The Councillor quoted Chief John Jansen in his submission to HWC: in a community facing extreme social and historical challenge, such as loss of identity, resources, land and way of life it is as important to restore the cultural ecological link of helping to rebuild a semblance of our past, to ensure a future for our children. A past representing a people whose lived values of sustainable use of resources, expressing their history to the care and stewardship of nature, a people who lived by the collective values of sustainable development can be restored once again.’
Stewart reflected on the historical neglect of Princess Vlei, and said that achieving heritage status was not the end of the road, it was a significant milestone in the struggle to restore the vlei. However, there was still much to be done. ‘We thank the councillor and and the City of Cape Town for all they have done, and which to assure both the CoCt and HWC that in the Forum you have a very passionate and committed community partner. We may not always be agreeable, but we are fully behind any efforts to enhance the vlei and to deepen its value as a place of heritage for our community.’
Delivering the keynote address, Minister Anroux Marais, provincial Minister of Cultural affairs and Sport spoke about the rich history of the vlei, and its cultural significance to the community., describing it as a ‘unique landscape of people’s identity.’
She spoke about the significance of the Princess Vlei myth in our history, and said that ‘The Princess Vlei represents a place of unity, healing and identity, all of which is much needed in the current climate. The heritage status communicates clearly that the heritage community and agencies consider this site to be an asset that warrants serious and focussed conservation attention from all parties.’
This is indeed a significant milestone. However, as the Forum we are acutely aware that much needs to be done to secure the heritage value of Princess Vlei. The legacy of decades of neglect is not easily overcome, and we welcome the minister’s statement that the site merits serious and focussed conservation attention from all parties.
This does indeed represent a victory of people over profit, for it has been the sustained action of thousands of community members, from school children to pensioners, which has led to this victory. Our young Princess Vlei guardians represent a new generation who will take this legacy forward. We look forward to working with the City and Heritage Western Cape into transforming the Princess into a precious community treasure, embodying our cultural, social and environmental identity for generations to come. To quote Ian McCallum, 'In damaging the landscape, you damage the soul of the community.’ Equally, restoring that landscape can heal the soul of the community. That is our over-arching mission and dearest wish.