UCT speaks to communities about heritage sites

21 February 2008 | Story by Bongani Kona

Saving the past for the future: Karen Shippey of Ninham Shand talks members of the public through UCT's proposed work on the Rustenburg Burial Grounds on its middle campus

The first of UCT's public consultation meetings about the Rustenburg Burial Ground, located on the university's middle campus, was held this past weekend at Glendale Secondary School in Mitchells Plain. UCT plans to commemorate the historic slave burial ground, dating back to the 1600s, and is seeking support and input from community stakeholders to decide how best to do this.

Even as the university looks to expand its campus to meet the demands of a growing body of students, "we will not destroy anything that is left of the burial ground", deputy vice-chancellor Professor Martin Hall pledged at the meeting.

Hall explained that a great deal of the burial ground had been destroyed by developments over the apartheid era. A study conducted on the burial ground notes that "the burial ground has not been visible above ground level since approximately 1930 (between 1927 and 1934), when the university built tennis courts on the site. Whether it still exists below ground level is unknown."

Hall noted, however, that heritage sites were treated callously in those days, while, today, they have become an issue of "public sensitivity" in which the public has a big role to play.

The National Heritage and Resources Act also stipulates that the public must be consulted in the interest of protecting burial grounds and other heritage sites.

The next meeting where members of the public can participate in the consultation process will be held in the Studio Theatre at the Baxter Theatre Centre on 23 February from 10h00 to 15h00.

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