De Novo seeks heritage status

A proposal has been submitted to Heritage Western Cape to classify the De Novo farm as a heritage site.

The De Novo community, aided by traditional leaders, has asked Heritage Western Cape (HWC) to classify their communal farmland as a heritage site.

The proposal was raised and minuted at an HWC meeting in December last year.

HWC chief executive Michael Janse van Rensburg confirmed the organisation had received the proposal from De Novo residents but the process was still in its infancy.

Northern News visited the area at the weekend, but residents refused to speak on the record and referred us to community leaders, who said they would talk to media once the proposal had been approved.

A resident, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said the proposal was a source of “excitement and contention” in the farming community.

The provincial Transport and Public Works Department has been the custodian of the land since June 8 2001, according to spokesman Jandré Bakker.

Griqua Royal House head of administration Aaron Martin William Messelaar, who doubles as Congress of Traditional Leaders of South Africa (Contralesa) deputy secretary general, said that for many years several departments, especially Transport and Public works, had made unfulfilled promises about turning De Novo into a heritage site.

“The first application was handed over to the former MEC (Bonginkosi Madikizela), who never responded to that request. The late Henry Carolus (a former community leader) was concerned for those born and raised in De Novo. He had always said that the legacy of their forebears is neglected and not protected,” Mr Messelaar said.

Mr Carlous had started conversations about protecting the land as a heritage site, Mr Messelaar said.

Community leaders claim their elders originated from Griqualand West and that the De Novo site was granted to them by the Union of South Africa.

Mr Messelaar said the community leaders feared developers might encroach on the cemetery and historical buildings.

Mr Van Rensburg said the next step would be to consult with the provincial Transport and Public Works department.

“Just by submitting the proposed nomination it does not mean that the site will be declared as a provincial heritage site. HWC might find that the site is not worthy of provincial heritage site status,” he said.

Mr Bakker said the department was unaware of the heritage proposal. He added that the land was occupied by both lawful and unlawful residents.

The Department of Transport and Public Works says some De Novo residents have occupied the area illegally.