The Princess Vlei Forum is delighted with the news that the Greater Princess Vlei Conservation Area has been awarded the status of a Provincial Heritage Site. The Heritage Western Cape Council officially approved the nomination at a meeting yesterday.
Since 2012, concerned communities, represented by the Princess Vlei Forum, have been actively lobbying to bring raise awareness of the cultural, social and ecological value of the area. The first victory was in 2014, when the City of Cape Town agreed to withdraw plans to build a shopping mall on the eastern shore.
Gaining Heritage Status represents another very significant community victory in the drive to win long term protection for this iconic site.
Although neglected by the authorities, Princess Vlei has long been cherished by the community for its aesthetic, cultural, spiritual, recreational and biodiversity values. Generations of families from all over the Cape Flats have visited for braais and picnics, and hundreds have been baptised there. It is home to three endangered vegetation systems, and several species of birds and other creatures. The legend of the Princess, and archeological evidence of early human occupation, links the area to our city’s Khoe heritage. It is an outdoor classroom for hundreds of school learners each year.
The PVF has been actively promoting these values, by raising funds to employ a full time manager, and to embark on an ambitious five-year plan to restore the indigenous fynbos on site, including over 50 endangered or extinct endemic species. Over 3500 square metres have been restored to date.
We have also worked with the CoCT to facilitate access and enhance the site’s social and cultural value through improved facilities and safety.
Since 2012, we have been compiling evidence of the site’s heritage value and community support for its protection through interviews, oral history projects, surveys and workshops. The process took a step forward last year, when Heritage Western Cape appointed Quahnita Samie from Vidamemoria Heritage consultants to facilitate the application. We worked actively with the consultants in providing comment and background information.
February 25 marked the start of a formal 60-day public participation process to get community feedback on the application for Provincial Heritage Status - originally set to run until 27th April 2020, later extended to June 4. The nationwide lockdown prevented most of our proposed public events to raise awareness, including a display in the library, open day and iNaturalist drive. However, we lobbied our support base through online media, which helped to generate the 199 positive endorsements that were received. The proposal by the consultant to award heritage status was unanimously endorsed by the Heritage Western Cape Inventories, Grading and Interpretation Committee (IGIC) meeting on 7 August 2020.
Thanks to representation by PVF chairperson Gary Stewart, the IGIC resolved further that Interested and Affected Parties such as the PVF and the City of Cape Town should be consulted in the compilation of the Conservation Management Plan. This will be a key priority for the PVF and the Heritage Subcommittee next year.
While the CoCT is now endeavouring to invest resources in the site, thanks in particular to the ongoing commitment by ward councillor Kevin Southgate, the site has suffered severe neglect historically. This is primarily because of its location in low-income neighbourhoods, and because it was declared a “non-white” recreational area during the Apartheid era. Gaining Provincial Heritage status will be another step in bringing the public and private investment and protection merited by this iconic space.
We would like to thank all those who worked so hard to win this community victory, including members of the Princess Vlei Forum Heritage Subcommittee, community members who gave time and resources to endorse the call, Quahnita Samie and Vidamemoria Heritage Consultants who worked tirelessly to compile the application, and members of Heritage Western Cape for their endorsement. We would also like to thank the many donors who enabled our investment in this project, in particular the Hans Hoheisen Charitable Trust managed by Nedbank Private Wealth