A his­tory of re­stricted ac­ces­si­bil­ity


Cape Times - - INSIGHT - Berta van Rooyen

IN HIS in­tro­duc­tion, Judge J Gam­ble states that Ta­ble Moun­tain was al­ways open to all for recre­ation. But re­stricted ac­ces­si­bil­ity has a long his­tory, as dis­cussed by Pro­fes­sor Lance van Sit­tert in 2010. The re­stric­tions ap­plied to ac­tiv­i­ties and peo­ple of colour. Lower Tokai Park be­came part of Ta­ble Moun­tain Na­tional Park in 2005, but it is not moun­tain­ous. It is a plain with soil sim­i­lar to the Cape Flats, now un­der se­vere threat re­gard­ing its nat­u­ral vege­ta­tion.

Archival re­search re­veals fur­ther that per­mis­sion for dog walk­ing re­stricted to Lower Tokai Park was granted at the height of apartheid. Sub­ur­ban de­vel­op­ment of the Con­stan­tia-Steen­berg Val­ley hap­pened after the Group Ar­eas Act 1950 be­came law. The Val­ley be­came a whites only area in 1961.

The Steen­berg Moun­tain Range be­gins at Con­stan­tia Nek and for most of its his­tory was fyn­bos land. The Hout Bay and Tokai sec­tions (in­clud­ing Vlakken­berg) be­longed to the na­tional Forestry De­part­ment and Sil­ver­mine to the Cape Town Mu­nic­i­pal­ity, but where pos­si­ble, plan­ta­tions were es­tab­lished.

Pines are the nu­cleus of the busi­ness and have to be pro­tected from tram­pling, graz­ing, fire and other threats. There­fore forestry al­ways re­quired per­mits for land ac­cess, ex­cept for SA Moun­tain Club card hold­ers for hik­ing. It is there­fore clear that a sin­gle set of ac­cess rules didn’t ap­ply across the Penin­sula moun­tain-chain.

The South African Forestry Com­pany (1990-2005) em­ployed forestry rules within forestry law. The only area al­lo­cated for dog walk­ing were the plan­ta­tions east of Or­pen Road. The per­mis­sion was granted in 1970, by­pass­ing the Forestry Law, Sec­tion 21, 2(g), Act 72 of 1968, si­mul­ta­ne­ously can­celling the 1964-per­mis­sion for dog walk­ing within the pic­nic area. Both per­mis­sions re­quired yearly per­mits.

Up­per Tokai Park was not open to the pub­lic ex­cept for the hik­ing trail and the ar­bore­tum. Do­mes­tic an­i­mals and tres­pass­ing were al­ways pro­hib­ited by forestry laws from 1888 to the present. Forestry Western Cape ad­dressed recre­ation in 1963 and the Tokai pic­nic area opened in 1964, with des­ig­nated paths for dog walk­ing on a leash.

But ac­cord­ing to ar­chives, loose run­ning dogs, crime and van­dal­ism in the pic­nic area ne­ces­si­tated a re­view with strict no­tices, in­creased ad­mis­sion fees and polic­ing by newly ap­pointed forestry guards in 1968. Crime was for­ever present in the greater Con­stan­tia-Steen­berg Val­ley.

Though force­ful re­movals were seen by the gov­ern­ment of the day as the an­swer to the fu­ture, lack of hous­ing led to squat­ting, such as at West­lake at the end of the 1970s, as well as es­ca­la­tion of crime and vi­o­lence in the 1980s, to­gether with the de­fi­ance cam­paign against apartheid. Pollsmoor was es­tab­lished in 1964 as a coloured fa­cil­ity. The pic­nic area was open to all, but the braai fa­cil­i­ties and toi­lets were seg­re­gated by race.

Forced re­movals of four coloured com­mu­ni­ties fol­lowed in 1963. The main con­se­quence of these was a labour short­age for farm­ers and forestry. Con­se­quently, small farm­ers be­gan to sell off their land and the eco­nom­i­cal tide favoured the in­flux of a “rich and up­per-class” group (as de­scribed by forestry staff). Lo­cal farm­ers were op­posed to forestry since early times be­cause of labour, fires and wa­ter is­sues.

Forestry pro­vided a ride-through path at Boshek to Soetvlei and lim­ited horse-rid­ing to fire-belts. The sub­urb Den­nen­dal was pro­claimed in 1969 and took sev­eral years to get off the ground. Den­nen­dal was pre­vi­ously Klein­bergvliet farm, sub­di­vided and named after the ad­ja­cent sec­tion of Tokai Plan­ta­tion.

The sub­se­quent about-turn by forestry in al­low­ing dogs to run off the leash, but no walk­ing within

The pic­nic area was open to all, but the braai fa­cil­i­ties and toi­lets were seg­re­gated

plan­ta­tions, was to keep the good­will of the new rich and im­por­tant peo­ple. Like ap­prov­ing the re­quest from Dr Giles, March 1970, and to counter the threat of los­ing the greater part of Lower Tokai Park to the De­part­ment of Pub­lic Works for a road con­struc­tion vil­lage, in­clud­ing a clinic.

Although land was of­fered in com­pen­sa­tion, the chief re­gional and dis­trict of­fi­cers of forestry de­clined the ex­change, in­stead declar­ing the land east of Or­pen Road as the “only” dog walk­ing area in the penin­sula, which was not true. (Giles ac­tu­ally walked his dog in Ce­cilia; Sil­ver­mine also al­lowed dogs.) The de­ci­sion in Au­gust 1970 was also mo­ti­vated to avoid the set­tle­ment of peo­ple “not suit­able” to the new neigh­bour­hood.

Clearly, this was not an al­tru­is­tic de­ci­sion, nor was it free of racism. Fur­ther­more, the dog walk­ers were ex­cluded from the mixed users in the pic­nic site, mak­ing dog walk­ing a whites only ac­tiv­ity. The Group Ar­eas Act was re­pealed in 1990.

Did con­ser­va­tion re­ally get its fair deal in this judg­ment? For the ev­ery­day per­son, this judg­ment in­jured the en­trench­ment of con­ser­va­tion in many South African and in­ter­na­tional laws for pro­tect­ing and con­serv­ing the en­vi­ron­ment. Si­mul­ta­ne­ously it en­hances the in­ver­sion of sym­bolic resti­tu­tion after 1994: priv­i­leges un­der apartheid are now writ­ten into law.

This rul­ing also poses a threat to her­itage. The her­itage of the land in ques­tion in­cludes pre-colo­nial peo­ple and a de­clared wood (fyn­bos) re­serve dur­ing the Dutch pe­riod, which is not em­bed­ded in the ar­bore­tum and build­ings in the precinct rep­re­sent­ing the forestry his­tory. The ar­bore­tum will be and was al­ways open to the pub­lic.

SANParks might have failed its ad­min­is­tra­tive duty ac­cord­ing to the judg­ment, but it acted on be­half of the eco­log­i­cal and cul­tural her­itage of this coun­try in ful­fill­ing its statu­tory duty.

This judg­ment could have un­fore­seen con­se­quences for con­ser­va­tion in the fu­ture.

Van Rooyen holds a PhD in his­tory


AT RISK: The pine trees in Tokai Park that have pro­vided many with shade for many with dogs might still be cut down one of these days.

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