The Gamtkwa Khoisan Council has vowed to fight until the bitter end to protect their heritage site, Thyspunt – the proposed site for a nuclear reactor.
The threats by the community follow Eskom’s announcement last week that it would engage with the National Nuclear Regulator to extend the period for public comment on its application for a site installation licence.
Thyspunt, which is situated west of Cape St Francis, is listed by the Heritage Monitoring Project (HMP) as being on the list of the most endangered heritage sites in South Africa.
The HMP is a body striving to raise public awareness over heritage-related matters across the country and to ensure that the National Heritage Resources Act is enforced.
Gamtkwa Khoisan Council representative Kobus Reichert said they had made a submission to the watchdog body on the Thyspunt matter as they believed Eskom was steamrolling ahead with its nuclear plan and that government officials frequented the area, making pronouncements without the backing of the leadership.
“Unfortunately, we have news for them. We have assembled a strong legal team,” he said.
“We will fight them. We think it’s inappropriate to construct a nuclear power plant both from a scientific and cultural perspective.”
Trudie Malan, of Thyspunt Alliance, said her organisation was fully behind the Khoisan people in their fight against the proposed nuclear site.
“The Khoisan are a really forgotten people. Let us respect the heritage site. I think it’s time we stop them [Eskom],” she said.
The HMP’s Jacques Stoltz said they made a call in June for South Africans to submit lists of endangered heritage sites and they had received close to 50.
“Our founding partner, the Heritage Portal, receives constant notices from members of the heritage community expressing concern about neglected sites of significance,” he said.
“With this campaign, we want to identify sites at risk around the country, and get communities and local stakeholders active in finding creative ways to respond to the threats – and, hopefully, ensure that sites are eventually removed from the endangered list.
“Sometimes a local church, mosque, cemetery or monument just needs a small amount of support from the private sector or local resident associations to make a big difference,” Stoltz said.
A broad spectrum of submissions were received – from BaTswana iron age ruins, to sites of military conflict, ancestral lands, historic townscapes and buildings, to struggle sites and archaeological and paleontological sites of international significance.
Victoria House and the Old Post Office complex in Port Elizabeth, and Thyspunt are included on the list of endangered heritage sites.
Others in the Eastern Cape include the amaMpondo Cultural Heritage Landscape, Post Retief, Winterberg and Victoria Bridge in Fort Beaufort.
Stoltz said an independent panel would judge the condition of the endangered sites submitted by the public.
This will be shortlisted to establish the national top 10, which will be published at the end of the month.
“In some instances, these sites are in good condition but may be endangered by planned demolition or future development,” he said.