Heritage in South Africa is faced with many challenges. Legislative requirements, especially with regard to the compilation of asset registers in towns and cities are largely not complied with. Most cities have not obtained competency to deal with local monuments. Interface with implementing agencies sometimes also present challenges. On the other hand, conservation education at tertiary level is progressing well and CPD courses for interested architects are well supported. It is however the regional committees that are still playing a vital role in conservation in their respective constituencies.

SAIA aims to promote and maintain the architectural environment and cultural heritage in South Africa. The Institute adopted as its Heritage Policy the Robben Island Vision in 2001.

SAIA’s advocacy of heritage related and work is undertaken at two levels, at National level through the SAIA Executive (nominated representatives from the Board) and national office, whilst regional interactions are undertaken by SAIA Regions through their respective Habitat committees. SAIA Regional Heritage Committees are active collaborating with Provincial Heritage Authorities

South African Heritage Resources Agency (SAHRA)

The South African Heritage Resources Agency is a statutory organisation established in terms of the National Heritage Resources Act (No 25 of 1999) as the national body responsible for the protection of South Africa’s cultural heritage resources

SAHRA released its SAHR information system (SAHRIS (insert hyperlink www.sahra.org.za/sahris) in 2012 which offers an online platform for the recording of heritage resources and is a useful tool for architects.

International Conservation and Heritage (ICOMOS)

The International Council on Monuments and Sites is an international non-governmental organisation of professionals, dedicated to the conservation of the world’s historic monuments and sites. It has adopted a wide range of Charters on heritage related issues since 1964. The international policies and charters are available on a single download (pdf format) containing all additional documents.

Click here to view

International Committee for Documentation and Conservation of buildings, sites and neighbourhoods of the Modern Movement (DoCoMoMo)

SAIA is registered with the international body, whilst the South African Chapter has been established by Heritage Portfolio members.

The focus of DoCoMoMo has been on the identification of significant twentieth century modern buildings to be listed. The criteria used for the listing has been the work of recognised major architects where their entire oeuvre is listed as well as specific buildings by other architects. In the identification of buildings to be listed those buildings which received provincial awards have been listed, particularly in the Western Cape where the awards go back to the mid Thirties. In addition particular typologies have been recognised so that buildings which have social and political significance are also taken into consideration. In Cape Town particular attention has, for example, been placed on the buildings of the clothing industry that demonstrate important aspects of the modern movement in their planning.

The listing is still very incomplete and although some parts of areas such as Cape Town have been listed, much remains to be done in order to produce a reasonably comprehensive list of significant modern buildings in South Africa. These buildings are, by their nature, generally less than sixty years old, and therefore not protected under the South African Heritage Resources Act. The lists need not only to be populated but all buildings listed need to be evaluated using a rigorous set of criteria that corresponds with the criteria established by DoCoMoMo International. An important part of the listing is the completion of evaluation microfiches of the buildings which are then listed on the international database which records modern buildings of importance around the world.

The local DoCoMoMo group has been active in a number of centres in South Africa with the Western Cape group the most active although there are a number of members of DoCoMoMo in the rest of the country who have undertaken surveys of their areas. One of the focuses for the next year is the structuring of the societies at local level and the development of regional and national structures.

Support Legal Action

SAIA has financially supported legal action pertaining to building of national importance, and works in collaboration with Cape Town Heritage Trust and Parktown Heritage Trust and similar organisations.

Heritage Short Course Development

SAIA is in the process of entering into a collaborative initiative with various stakeholders in the delivery of CPD validated activities to increase specialist capacity. A task team has been established in 2010 to deliver on the objectives.

Heritage Asset Application Assessments

A number of the SAIA Regions offer assistance relating to the built environment. The Habitat National Committee constitutes reputable heritage specialists drawn from all regional structures.

Convenor (BoR) ECIA Prof Albrecht Herholdt
Assisted by (BoR) CIfA Prof André van Graan
KZNIA Nina Saunders
KZNIA Trish Emmett
NCIA Henk van de Wall
Committee Members CIfA Laura Robinson
FSIA Anton Roodt
GIfA Brian McKechnie
PIA Nicholas Clarke/Helene Potgieter
SAIA Secretariat Manager HerHab Diane Arvanitakis
Regional Contacts BKIA Christopher Hepburn
MPIA Gerhard Jooste

Since April 200 SHiFT acted as the delivery agent for the Habitat and Heritage Portfolio, a not-for-profit organization with the cross cutting expertise to manage and coordinate the activities of the SAIA objectives. SHiFT responds to SAIA’s policies and protocols in the delivery of the portfolio activities.

The Robben Island Heritage Vision

1. Preamble

At a meeting of the Regional Heritage Representatives of SAIA held on Robben Island on 9/10 August 2001 it was resolved that: In recognition of complex cultural landscapes in South Africa and the role of the built environment within those landscapes, the Robben Island Heritage Vision would relate the aims of the Constitution of South Africa, particularly the Bill of Rights dealing with the environment to the management of those complex cultural landscapes.

The spirit of Robben Island should live on through this Heritage Policy Document which would ensure that the contribution of the diverse cultural groups within our country to their environment should be respected and conserved to the best of our collective ability.

1.1. Preamble of the Constitution of South Africa

We, the people of South Africa,

  1. Recognise the injustices of our past;
  2. Honour those who suffered for justice and freedom in our land;
  3. Respect those who have worked to build and develop our country; and
  4. Believe that South Africa belongs to all who live in it, united in our diversity.
  5. We therefore, through our freely elected representatives, adopt this Constitution as the supreme law of the Republic so as to Heal the divisions of the past and establish a society based on democratic values, social justice and fundamental human rights;
  6. Lay the foundations for a democratic and open society in which government is based on the will of the people and every citizen is equally protected by law;
  7. Improve the quality of life of all citizens and free the potential of each person; and
  8. Build a united and democratic South Africa able to take its rightful place as a sovereign state in the family of nations.
  9. May God protect our people.

Nkosi Sikelel’ iAfrika.

Morena boloka setjhaba sa heso.

God seën Suid-Afrika.

God bless South Africa.

Mudzimu fhatutshedza Afurika.

Hosi katekisa Afrika.

1.2. From Chapter 2, the Bill of Rights of the Constitution of South Africa Environment 24.

Everyone has the right; a.to an environment that is not harmful to their health or well-being; and b.to have the environment protected, for the benefit of present and future generations, through reasonable legislative and other measures that;

  1. prevent pollution and ecological degradation;
  2. promote conservation; and
  3. secure ecologically sustainable development and use of natural resources while promoting justifiable economic and social development.

11.3. The spirit of this vision

“While we will not forget the brutality of apartheid, we will not want Robben Island to be a monument of our hardship and suffering. We would want it to be a triumph of the human spirit against the forces of evil. A triumph of wisdom and largeness of spirit against small minds and pettiness; a triumph of courage and determination over human frailty and weakness; a triumph of the new South Africa over the old” Ahmed Kathrada (Prisoner no. 468/64, imprisoned for 26 years)

2. Terms of Reference and Interpretation:

It was agreed to adopt the ICOMOS Burra charter and, possibly, to develop a South African Addendum to the Charter. (We are mindful of the amount of hours that have gone into developing the Burra Charter and see it as a document that can be adapted to the South African context).

2.1 The Burra Charter

Click here to view

Click here to find out more

3. Strategies for SAIA Heritage Policy

Strategy 1 – Networking at all levels Action plans:

  • Network globally with heritage movements and particularly with those based in Africa.
  • Assist government and client groups, at all levels, in the recognition of the social and economic value of cultural heritage conservation.
  • Arrange annual meetings of SAIA Regional Heritage Committees and regular report backs on heritage activities comment on legislation and conservation administration.
  • Establish a database of conservation architects.

Strategy 2 – Promote cultural heritage Action plans:

  • Promote cultural heritage particularly with regard to the cultural landscape of the built environment.
  • Establish archives, create a database and encourage architects to contribute material to archives.
  • Organise peer group reviews to recognize and publicise excellent examples of conservation.
  • Assist with initiatives to measure up and record our cultural environment and particularly those that are threatened.
  • Raise public and government awareness to attain community backing on conservation issues with a view to develop strategies to manage these resources.

Strategy 3 – Provide appropriate training Action plan:

  • Ensure that appropriate aspects of heritage conservation appreciation are taught at all levels of education and particularly tertiary architectural courses.
  • Provide on-going continual professional development in architectural conservation.
  • Hold workshops and other appropriate events, such as tours or information packages, to ensure that conservation remains on the lifelong agenda of architects.
  • Make sure that allied professionals are also made aware of the special needs of architectural conservation.