Nestled between the mountains, with a river that lends its name to the town, Great Brak River is steeped in history. But we are not always aware of the historical value of the properties we acquire and most of us are blissfully unaware of the requirements associated with older properties. In South African legislation any structure older than 60 years is regarded as a heritage resource and may enjoy the protection of the National Heritage Resources Act 25 of 1999.

What we are also not aware of is that not only buildings are included in the Act. The Act also includes other resources such as graves, burial grounds, archeological artefacts, rare geological specimens, places and structures or equipment of cultural significance, places to which oral traditions are attached or which are associated with living heritage, historical settlements, sites of significance relating to the history of slavery in South Africa, moveable objects recovered from the soil or waters, objects to which oral traditions are attached or which are associated with living history. This list is not exhaustive.

It may be very probable that one acquires a property, totally oblivious of the fact that any one or more of the abovementioned structures or objects are on the property (or even the entire property) and qualifies as a heritage resource. Heritage status of a property or objects attract any of the protective obligations imposed in the Act – which include restriction on developments on the property, halting of any developments pending confirmation of the heritage status of the items or the buildings, special approval required to make alterations or erect new structures on the property (even necessary repairs) and restriction of access to portions of the land where the resources are found. Imagine one is busy with excavations to improve your pride and joy or to establish your dream venture and you stumble across historical objects or a burial site! These interruptions can be costly and, in many incidences, even mean the end of a proposed development. That is apart from fines that may be imposed due to the damage to a heritage resource.

What are the obligations of a landowner or person in control of land where heritage objects or resources are discovered? The first step would be to determine the heritage status of the objects or the buildings and thereafter to confirm what protective measures must be put in place. This information will be available from Heritage Western Cape (to whom all applications for developments must be submitted).

How can one ensure that you do not inadvertently overstep the provisions of the Act?
• Firstly confirm the age of the buildings on the property with your estate agent, previous landowner, local municipality or the Heritage Association in your area.
• Obtain information about the heritage status of your property – this might involve a costly heritage assessment by a specialist.
• Confirm the heritage status of the property or objects with Heritage Western Cape, together with the associated restrictions and requirements.
And if still possible – enjoy your property!

Contact details
Mossel Bay Heritage:
Heritage Western Cape: