Our past is being destroyed

Thomas Johnson, Belthorne Estate

Monica Sutherland’s letter (“River Club development will destroy heritage,” Southern Suburbs Tatler, April 14) is spot on.

She asks the key question about development: why here? This is relevant when other, perhaps more suitable, sites are available. For the developer it’s easy: tenants do not desire property where the riff-raff jobless, who do menial labour for them, live but in nice, easily accessible middle-class suburbs. So the job-creation argument is disingenuous and invalid.

In its statement Liesbeek Leisure Properties Trust (LLPT) unequivocally rejected the suggestion for the site to be returned to its “original state”, saying it’s “neither viable or feasible, nor desired by the majority of the Cape Peninsula Khoi”.

It begs the question, though, why the Khoi would not want a protected site where their culture and practices could be observed? Their claimed refusal of such a site, and support of the River Club development, is at odds with indigenous peoples in South Africa and around the world who deplore the alienation of traditional lands and culture by colonialism, mining and industrialisation and urban development.

The only explanation is LLPT bought Cape Peninsula Khoi’s support, which granted the company permission to develop the land which they were not entitled to give, with promises of a heritage and media centre and to “memorialise” Khoi culture, which LLPT was not entitled to offer – the company is not the keeper of Khoi history or anyone else’s for that matter.

The Khoi groups apparently sealed the deal by being co-respondents against the interdict application. Their price was cheap if a visitor centre is the only thing they got in exchange.

This speaks of the continuation of capitalist colonialism and selling heritage and land for sparkly baubles, the awful historic practice indigenous people the world over are retroactively trying to rectify. Another term for it is “selling-out”.