/ 21 February 2022

Right of reply: Read the petition, James Tannenberg, Khoi descendants don’t want their sacred heritage site ‘developed’

September 30 2020 A View Of The Land Where The New River Club Development Is Located. Photo By David Harrison
A view of the land where the new River Club development is located. (David Harrison)

Dear James Tannenberg, 

Since you have once again made use of the First Nations Collective’s (FNC) support to justify the destruction of a sacred heritage resource for the Khoi, we thought we would share some of the comments made on our petition site. That’s because the comments show clearly that people who sign our petition are not — as you claim — stupid or misinformed. And a good number of them identify as people of Khoi descent and they neither accept the River Club development nor the idea that the First Nations Collective speak for them.

Below is a sample of their comments. You can confirm they exist at the petition site but we should warn you that it might take a while, since almost 73 000 people have signed the petition. That amounts to a lot of comments to read. 

For example, 

  • I am Khoi … My Mama was Khoi … This is the time to stand up and be Proud. I love my Heritage.
  • This is another example of our heritage being destroyed.
  • I am signing because I strongly oppose this development and those leaders who signed on our behalf do not have my approval to sign on my behalf.
  • As hard as South Africans have been fighting for their land, for more Westerners to just come in and steal it again is just asinine and disgusting. Try taking their sacred land and I know there will be hell to pay. My people don’t play about their spirituality.
  • As an Indigenous Khoe/Xam descendant, I do not believe that this is the best option for our sacred ground. We must respect all aspects of culture, heritage and environment, and this is definitely not doing that.
  • My Khoi heritage is already undermined by our government, so much that the Khoena language is not recognised as part of our nation’s ethnicity. We also have this place as childhood memories. If we believe in progress, why are we then digressing the cultural land, the history, the nature, the climate in such negative ways? Keep this sacred place sacred and not for sale.
  • The heritage of our people has never been a priority.
  • To think that our heritage is being taken for a joke and to see that money is really corrupting our society is a shame. 
  • For too long we were not regarded as citizens with ancestral homeland. The European invasion … now capital that [is] occupying our land with no regard for our heritage
  • Hands off our Khoi and San Sacred Land.
  • I’m sickened by the greed, behaviour and total disregard for all things Sacred. DO NOT TOUCH OUR HOLY PLACES.
  • I am a descendant of the Khoi. We are utterly OPPOSED to Liesbeek Leisure Properties development of ten-story high skyscrapers. We are ANGRY and DISGUSTED that the land which is sacred to our indigenous group was sold by this government without consultation or care for our history.
  • I want them out of our ancestral land.
  • I am a DIRECT DESCENDANT of the first people of South Africa and I have had ENOUGH of the violations against our people, our sacred spaces and history. ENOUGH!
  • The descendants of the Khoi & San and the land are intertwined. We and the land are one. We need now more than ever pieces of land that stands for our heritage & where we can go to connect to the memories that our ancestors left there for us. Please stop “development” of this heritage site.
  • I belong to the Goringhaicona tribe and [am] passionate about our heritage grounds; it is our Khoi indigenous peoples’ right to have it preserved for our future generations.
  • I am a person of Khoekhoe origin who desires recognition for our heritage and history. Furthermore, I desire restitution for our people.
  • The proposed development will destroy our heritage and legacy of struggle.

Bottom line, James, is that your claim that you have the consent of the Khoi nation to put up 150 000 square metres of concrete on a site that everyone agrees is a sacred floodplain (except perhaps you and your fellow board members) is fallacious.

And now it seems, even the First Nations Collective (FNC) are not happy with “their share of the spoils”, according to a report in the Sunday Times of 6 February. While you previously were happy to refer to the FNC as the authoritative voice of the Khoi in the Western Cape, now that some members are expressing dissatisfaction with the lack of sufficient material benefits for the FNC, they have suddenly become “an unknown and limitless body of parties” who do not have “any legitimate claim to ownership of the site” because, make no mistake, you and your fellow directors are in the driving seat. 

Of course, you were clever enough to have the FNC sign a “social compact” which is not actually a social compact but a “binding” agreement as to “what rights and obligations the parties have”. Since the FNC have signed this document, you are probably now well insulated from any legal claims for any of the massive profits you intend to accrue from this mega-development.

But morally, it’s clear that there is no real commitment from the Liesbeek Leisure Properties Trust to do the right thing. Which is to immediately cease destruction of a sacred riverine valley and to allow the site to be declared a national heritage site, as it should be, on the way to joining the South African Astronomical Observatory as a Unesco Heritage Site.

No doubt you will hurl the accusation of misinformation at us again. But that is the norm for the Liesbeek Leisure Properties Trust who are loath to live with the uncomfortable truth.

Yours sincerely

Leslie London, Observatory Civic Association, and Tauriq Jenkins, Goringhaicona Khoi-Khoin Indigenous Traditional Council