Following the release of the draft Western Cape Heritage Bill, the Heritage Association of South Africa has expressed concern about the potential overreach on the part of the heritage authorities in the Western Cape. An analysis of the draft Bill shows that the document departs from the definitions used in the National Heritage Resources Act (NHRA; number 25 of 1999) in subtle ways. This has major bearing on the powers that Heritage Western Cape (HWC) will enjoy should the Bill be adopted as provincial legislation.
Of key concern is the omission of the definitions of “management” and “improvement” from the draft. The implications are that normal maintenance, rehabilitation and repair work will require a permit from HWC.
It seems that the provisions of the draft document will bring under the control of HWC any action required for a building over 60 years and will require the owners to obtain a permit at great cost and with extensive time delays.
The net result will be a further burden on the owners of historic properties, both in terms of costs (including the application fees and experts’ reports) as well as time, and will ultimately lead to the loss of our heritage resources and a rise in disregard of the law, which is already prevalent in all the outlying districts under the present laws.
HWC can in terms of section 57 of the NHRA enact a provincial heritage act (which is what the document in question is) and that this enactment will take precedence over the equivalent provisions of the NHRA in so far as they relate to provincial areas of competence.
HASA questions the legal power of HWC to omit definitions in the Draft Act, particularly when these omissions will lead to a situation inconsistent with Section 6 of the NHRA. The reason for such omissions should be made clear, because their inclusion seems to add benefit to the conservation of heritage and affect how heritage resources are managed.
Statement released 25 July 2018