Residents of the Bo-Kaap, Salt River and Observatory, took part in a resistance walk from the Bo-Kaap Museum to the Jan van Riebeeck statue on Heerengracht Street, on Youth Day last week, commemorating the 1976 Soweto uprising.
The resistance walkers, led by the Goringhaicona Khoi Khoin Traditional Indigenous Council, demand the removal of colonial statues, as well as the protection of heritage sites, the preservation of their language, Khoekhoegowab, and the establishment of a truth and reconciliation commission for the Khoi and San people.
“We are pushing towards a common understanding of who we are as South Africans but in particular on the concerns of the Khoi Khoin and San communities we are facing a massive threat against the Amazon backed development on the river club, that’s a sacred ground for us,” said Tauriq Jenkins, high commissioner of the Goringhaicona Khoena Council.
Mr Jenkins said they had the support of more than 60 civic and environmental organisations.
“We want all colonial statues to fall, now, because they don’t represent our history and on Youth Day in particular we want to challenge the history and the language of power that we are still taught in schools,” said Lutfi Omar, Secretary of the Salt River Heritage Society.
“We want to challenge the narrative – something raised by the youth of 1976 which was not dealt with in 1994. Decolonisation is not a metaphor or a slogan. It requires respecting sacred land, it requires land redistribution, it requires public housing, it requires teaching our languages and our African histories in our schools.”
While there were only 120 walkers at the event, the organisers’ said they had already collected more than 50 000 signatures of people opposing Amazon’s proposed development at the River Club Observatory which was given the green light in April. The R4 billion mixed-development proposal by Liesbeek Leisure Properties Trust(LLPT), covers the area the size of 15 rugby fields and includes retail space, office space, gym, hotel, restaurants, conferencing, school and events space.
The inaugural Walk of Resistance had been held in Observatory on Freedom Day, April 27, starting at Ouden Molen Village in Pinelands and finishing at the Two Rivers Urban Park in Observatory.
“It’s important that we remind ourselves what this day is about. It’s about the youth and it’s about reconnecting our children to history. I think it’s important for children to believe in a greater cause than themselves,” said Melody Pick who walked with her 11-year-old daughter.
Referring to the Amazon development, Kirsten Poking said: “This is relevant to me as I’m sick and tired of someone else from another country coming here and destroying our heritage and culture.”
“It’s a monumental occasion as we are handing over our signatures to the government to show them that we are a big group and we are against the development of the sacred heritage land, and also its a wetland it’s not supposed to be developed,” said Kimon Bisogno.
A stalwart of the anti-apartheid movement, Reverend Allan Boesak joined the resistance walk at the Heerengracht statues, where he delivered the authorities a warning. He had also attended the inaugural resistance walk.
“We entrusted to them the running of this country. We told them we trust you enough to do the right thing by our people. If they’re not doing it, we have the power to take that away from them. If they do not act accountably and respectfully and justly to the people, we will take you out and that is something we did not have then that the young people today have,” he said.
“Our salvation is not in the politics that South Africa has now, it’s not in political parties, it has to be something something that we have to take in our hands and we can only do that if we build an organisation of the people run by the people working for the people in service of the people,” he added.