Heritage status to protect Rocklands Community Hall for future generations
Heritage Western Cape (HWC), one of the public entities of the Department of Cultural Affairs and Sport, has recognised the historic, social and political significance of the Rocklands Community Hall by officially designating the building and surrounding area as a Provincial Heritage site.
HWC unveiled Erf 11553 as the new heritage site on Tuesday, 20 August 2019, exactly 36 years after the United Democratic Front (UDF) was formed there in 1983.
The UDF played an important role in the fight for democracy by uniting over 400 anti-apartheid organisations from around South Africa. Dr Mxolisi Dlamuka, Head of Heritage Western Cape, explained why the site is important for all South Africans.
“The struggle, especially in the 1970s and 1980s, was driven largely by the involvement of ordinary South Africans, the masses, in the day to day defiance of the apartheid domination. Moreover, ordinary people realised that the ability to shake the apartheid domination lay in their ability to unite,” he said at the unveiling.
“It was due to that spirit that on the 20th of August 1983 over 474 grassroots organisations from across the entire country descended here and came onto this stage to form a single overarching organisation, the United Democratic Front. The UDF aimed to mobilise and organise on a national level against apartheid throughout the country. It called for the united, non-racial, non-sexist and democratic South Africa that we have today. Had it not been for the sacrifice and dedication of the people who established the UDF and mobilised various groups and organisations, South Africa might not have been free today.
“Today, 20 August, as we mark 36 years since the UDF was launched, this site is now a Provincial Heritage site. A Provincial Heritage site is a site of high significance in the memory of the people. Heritage Western Cape, a provincial entity under the leadership of our minister, declared the Rocklands Community Hall as such to recognise the role the UDF played in not only abolishing apartheid, but also in affirming that the strength of a people lies in its collectiveness” Dr. Dlamuka said.
Veronica Simmers, an ANC member and anti-apartheid activist, who worked outside the founding meeting in 1983, gave the opening speech at the unveiling of the site and described what took place on that historic day.
The event was also attended by several former UDF members, including former national Minister Valli Moosa and former United Nations ambassador Dr Allan Boesak, who both delivered speeches. The keynote address was delivered by Minister Anroux Marais.
“The value of the Rocklands Community Complex lies in its political and social nature and is of outstanding significance for the memorialisation and acknowledgement of civil organisations and their role and contribution to our democratic society as experienced today,” Minister Marais said.
“The Provincial Heritage site status will communicate clearly and definitively that the heritage community and agencies consider this site to be a major and important heritage asset that warrants serious and focused conservation attention from all parties. Provincial Heritage site status immediately provides the full protection to these sites described in the National Heritage Resources Act (1999). This is indeed welcomed by the Western Cape Government as we can all agree that the value of the Rocklands Community Complex lies in its societal nature, amplified by its socio-political significance.
“I look forward to collaboratively sharing the significance of the newly officiated Provincial Heritage site of Erf 11553 at the Rocklands Community Hall. I thank all who had a hand in the approval of the Provincial Heritage site status bestowed upon the Rocklands Community Complex. We are indeed grateful to each stakeholder as you have contributed to a community’s sense of place, belonging and purpose and unleashed its potential to yield information contributing to a wider understanding of the history of co-existence in the Western Cape” Minister Marais said.
Dr Dlamuka also announced that Heritage Western Cape was already working with the South African Heritage Resources Agency to have Erf 11553, which also includes the library, the memorial square and the community healthcare centre, declared a national heritage site.
We hope that the collective efforts of DCAS and Heritage Western Cape will ensure that important historic sites are conserved for future generations. BETTER TOGETHER.