Heritage Legislation

The response below was prepared by Wynand Dreyer PrEng, on behalf of the Johannesburg Heritage Foundation, to the process initiated in September 2020, by the Transformation and Spatial Planning Unit of the City of Johannesburg, towards the review and update of the Spatial Development Framework 2040 (SDF).  The commentary deals with best practice and the requirements that legislation imposes on authorities, including the responsibility of the City to compile an inventory of its heritage resources, talks to practical steps required to give effect to the SDF and

There is an American saying, “You can’t fight City Hall and win!” There is also an ancient legend of a pipe-smoking pirate named Jan Van Hunks who challenged a sinister stranger to a pipe smoking competition on the slopes of Table Mountain. They smoked for days until the stranger gave in and Van Hunks was still puffing. At this point Van Hunks saw the cloven hooves and realised that his competitor was none other than the Devil himself. The angry devil incinerated Van Hunks and they both disappeared but left their smoke.

Jeppestown, to the east of the Central Business District of the city, is one of Johannesburg’s oldest residential suburbs, proclaimed soon after gold was discovered in 1886. It was originally a neat little suburb for the middle classes of early Johannesburg. Most of the houses and small blocks of flats are now in desperate need of a coat of paint and repairs, but look like they were originally comfortable places in which to live, well-designed and part of a sustainable, liveable neighbourhood.

There are many heritage objects housed in State aided or supported entities such as museums, governmental departments, and other state organisations. These institutions are responsible for safe-guarding and looking after the heritage objects in their custodianship on behalf of the public. Heritage objects portray material evidence of the people and their environment, as such, they should be cared for and conserved, due to their lasting value and provision of evidence of the origins of South African society.

In raising this issue I wish to point out that many attempts by both De Rust Heritage and the Joint Heritage Permit Committee in Oudtshoorn comprising Heritage Oudtshoorn Erfenis and the De Rust Heritage Conservation Association have largely proved unsuccessful in getting the Greater Oudtshoorn Municipality to prosecute guilty parties over a number of years.

In order for an archaeological or palaeontological site to be declared a National Heritage Site, it must first be Graded as being of appropriate national cultural significance. At the South African Heritage Resources Agency (SAHRA), our approach is that the Grading process should encompasses the lion’s share of the work in assessing a site’s significance in order to compile an extensive Grading nomination dossier.

The local controversy over the development of the public space at Maiden's Cove on the Atlantic Seaboard of Cape Town has been brought to national attention in an article by the distinguished retired Constitutional Court Judge, Albie Sachs. “The Secret Weapon of Maiden's Cove for All” (Daily Maverick, 4 September 2018), hones in on some of the most complex and persistent challenges in the heritage sector: How to define heritage? Whose heritage is it?

Heritage encompasses all that we experience in everyday life. It is far more fluid in how it is experienced by society than what we perceive it to be. It is where ideas of individual identity and the role of nation states connect. It is who we are as individuals and how we relate to one another in society.

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