Dr Nomafrench Mbombo
Western Cape Minister of Cultural Affairs and Sport
It is my pleasure to announce that the Western Cape Government is working on an application to the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) , alongside Heritage Western Cape, to declare a series of our sites, World Heritage Sites.
These sites include Blombos (BBC), Border Cave (BC), Diepkloof (DKF), Klasies River (KR), Pinnacle Point (PP), Sibudu Cave (SC)and comparable Pleistocene occupation sites relating to the emergence of modern humans.
Three of these sites are in the Western Cape and they are the Pinnacle Point Site Complex, Diepkloof Rock Shelter and Blombos Cave.
When these sites are looked at collectively they tell the story of the origins of humankind. They display the very first evidence of cognitive human development, early nuclear family life, art and human values associated with modern humans today.
They are of significance in celebrating and embracing our heritage because they bear testimony to once widely practiced cultural traditions which have been now lost.
Archeologists believe that these sites are of significance to the origin of all modern people. They tell a story of a journey of humankind that can be traced back as early as 200 000 years ago. South Africa has the potential to tell this story to the world and that is why we believe, as a government, that this nomination is unique and critical.
This serial nomination already features on UNESCO’s tentative list of heritage sites and we believe that it has a strong chance of being awarded World Heritage Site status because no comparable sites of this nature feature on the World Heritage List.
Once a site is on the tentative list, a comprehensive process of collation of data and compilation of supporting evidence needs to take place. This is not only time consuming but it is a costly process that involves various stakeholders. The Department of Cultural Affairs and Sport has initiated this process and we estimate that we would have completed our work by 2016. Because a country can only make one nomination of this kind in a year, 2016 is the aim as it will coincide with the conclusion of our research.
The fact that these sites are recognized and have been placed on the tentative list is reason for us to be proud of the work we have done thus far. We look forward to the next two years as we conclude this process of our nomination.
South Africa is already home to eight World Heritage Sites. This status is prestigious and has obvious gains like placing the Western Cape on a world large pedestal for potential growth in our tourism industry.
Provincial Heritage Sites:
In a celebration of Heritage Month 2014, Heritage Western Cape (HWC) has focussed on the declaration of four new Provincial Heritage Sites that represent our history and diversity.
Diepkloof Rock Shelter- Diepkloof is also one of the few a sites which contain evidence of early artistic expression. Unlike other such sites which contain limited numbers of objects with human decoration, Diepkloof has 270 intentionally engraved ostrich egg shell fragments which have been uncovered thus far.
Verlorenvlei Cultural Landscape- The surviving Langhuis structures contained within the settlement are recognized as being significant and unique remnants of a once thriving hamlet located on the shores of the Verlorenvlei, which is itself regarded as one of the most important estuarine systems in the Western Cape and is recognized as being a wetland of international significance.
Harold Cressy High School- Harold Cressy High School displays significance in terms of intrinsic historical, social, environmental, cultural and political value. The school represents resistance to apartheid laws and association to public memory of forced removals, segregation and academic excellence.
St Georges Cathedral- built in 1901 and designed by well-known architect, Sir Herbert Baker, this cathedral is significant for its role as a site for protests in the Struggle for Liberation during the 1980s against social injustices in Cape Town.
The declaration notices for these sites will be published in a special edition of the Provincial Government Gazette today, 23rd of September.
We are extremely proud of honouring these sites and buildings for the role they play in piecing together the story of the Western Cape and South African history.
During this month of September, the Western Cape Government achieved a tremendous amount that we all can be proud of. It has been my aim to ensure that the celebration of Heritage Day and month is not just limited to the festivities that happen annually.
That is why my department and I have worked hard so that the sites that are worthy of protection according to the National Heritage Resources Act are afforded such and that inroads are made to putting South Africa on the map for the 9th time with the recognition of the magnificent comparable sites situated on South Africa’s shoreline. This nomination has the potential to change the way in which human development is studied and our county will be right in the centre of such ground breaking archaeological findings.