Why are we Losing  our Heritage?          266      S?

We are looking for a solution that will cross many administrative boundaries. In East Fort’s case, there are several players five of which are government bodies. Tourism (Click on Silo diagram right) would appear to have little say in our heritage whilst it probably has the most to gain by encouraging heritage conservation, employment opportunities education and community benefits. The “Owner” of the East Fort site, the Dept of Defence appropriated the maintenance of the site to the TMNP but has no written agreement with them, as confirmed in an SANDF letter to the Association. The example of Provincial Silos is illustrated opposite, but divisions between departments occur at local levels who have their own tourism policies and cannot interfere with Provincially Graded sites (Grade 2). This means that the City’s Tourism Department has to work in a constricted envelope. They recently announced the creation of a Military Heritage Route which you can read about here but don’t get too excited!

The only way to help save our heritage would seem via inter departmental cooperation or “Co-operative Governance” which rarely happens. So what is the Answer?
The fact is that there are over 3000 National and Provincial Heritage Sites (Grades I & II) scattered around the country many of which are state owned, like Hout Bay’s Forts. If an analysis of the sites revealed that  5% had tourism potential then 180 possible sites could be investigated further as possible Heritage Tourism Destinations.
The identification and selection of the sites would need an independent assessment but in the end it is very likely that as many as 100 or more new Heritage Tourism Destinations could emerge which could bring in tourism and its benefits to communities in the Eastern and Western Cape.
               Cape Town has the most to gain!

Why can’t our Heritage Authorities see the problem ?  They probably can, but because of limited resources they cannot cope with the volume of requests for permits and planning assessments etc from developers and private property owners, which is a very important regulatory part of their activities. This leaves little time and resources for the actual conservation of State owned properties. Many of the sites may be in isolated places which would place them at a disadvantage as far as tourism is concerned though in some places, sites could be ‘linked’ to form a critical mass and hence by working in a group, could form a “Heritage Tourism Destination Cluster”. In Hout Bay’s case we see great potential in a Military Heritage Route stretching across the Peninsula from Robben Island to Simons Town.  

The Eternal Truths are that many heritage sites will struggle to come up with viable business plans. Also many will be in private hands and their willingness to participate must be respected. However, State owned sites are invariably the most threatened and there would appear to be resistance at Heritage Agency level to challenge errant organs of State to force them into line. One government departments will not legally challenge another which is where the recipe falls down. This applies in National Parks and in fact in a World Heritage Site in Cape Town’s case.    


In an ideal World this would be the answer where Tourism overlapped our environmental and cultural heritage agencies on a level playing field. However, it is unlikely to happen. However many other countries have found the solution. A National Trust.

More than 15 years down the line the system is not working and South Africa is losing some of its most valuable heritage sites.
The NHRA legislation at a Provincial level (Dept of Cultural Affairs and Sport) theoretically addresses our Natural and Cultural Heritage, whilst our environmental legislation (Environmental Affairs and Development Planning) includes only the natural environment issues on its Agenda. Other than through its recently acquired  “Responsible Tourism” creed, Tourism (Dept of  Economic Development and Tourism) does not have any responsibility for either our natural of cultural heritage, however, they are the greatest potential beneficiaries through Tourism and the economic development and jobs created as a result.
There is no doubt that many other countries have found themselves in a similar situation and
National Heritage Trusts have been the Answer.  They have broken the old mould and opted for a new one that works!


Distribution of Grade I&II Heritage  sites showing numbers in each Province (click on Map)

Source:- Wikilovesmonuments

A key piece of legislation that needs to be applied so  that communities can help to preserve their heritage is
Sect 42 of the NHRA :- Heritage Agreements

National Heritage Resources Act Objectives (pdf doc)


A nation that turns its back on its history, the lessons and experiences of the past, good or bad,  undermines the foundations of its future.

In a Nutshell

What Happened - Fire

The First steps

Building the Carriages

The Original Plan

The Legal Mine Field

Facing the Facts

Losing our Heritage

Military heritage Route

Contemporariy Sites

Other Examples

Bo Kaap

Restoration v/s Conservation

The sixty year rule

Our flagship site


Grade 2 Sites normally require the co-operation of the Silos shown in blue. The orange highlighted specific departments will have a responsibility direct or indirect to advance heritage tourism. In the case of East Fort you must add the TMNP as well as the Dept of Defence who retain ownership of the site but have appropriated it to TMNP. For a volunteer community based conservation body to motivate all these silos is impossible, but co-operative governance could succeed.
Clearly conflicts will arise, but the spirit of co-operation must be reached for agreement  to take place. We need to concentrate on: - WHAT CAN BE DONE  and not what CAN’T BE DONE!

Mil Herit Route   358

A Military Heritage Route