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Grading and Declarations

The main objective of the Grading and Declarations unit is to assist with the identification, assessment and conservation management planning of sites proposed for gazetting as National Heritage Sites, in terms of Sections 3, 7, 9 and 27 of the NHRA (Act 25 of 1999). The Unit provides a service to several other units within the Heritage Resources Management department of SAHRA and collaborates with the officers of those units to ensure the efficient and timeous declaration of such diverse resources as sites, objects, shipwrecks and graves.

SAHRA or any members of the public can identify places to be declared national heritage sites that are deemed to have qualities so exceptional that they are of special national significance. This process includes consultation and public participation, and culminates in the publishing of the NHS status of the site in the Government Gazette. These sites will be marked with a badge/plaque. Specific movable objects or collections may be formally declared as a heritage objects if SAHRA considers it necessary to control their export.

There are two processes involved in the declaration of a site as a National Heritage Site, namely GRADING and DECLARATION. These are thorough and somewhat lengthy processes, ensuring that proper research is conducted about the site’s significance, management and sustainability.

The first step is to Grade the site. This is the identification of a site with significant heritage value.

The National Heritage Resources Act, Act no 25 of 1999, differentiates between a 3 tier system (Section 7):

Grade 1 – Resources with qualities so exceptional that they are of special national significance – administered by SAHRA
Grade 2 – Resources significant within the context of a province – administered by the relevant Provincial Heritage Authority (PHRA)
Grade 3 – Resources significant to a particular community – administered by the relevant local municipality.

Grading is not a formal protection but allows each authority to research the potential and significance of a site with the view to formally declare it as a National, Provincial or Local Heritage Site.

All nominations received by SAHRA are reviewed by SAHRA’s Grading and Declarations Review Committee. Should the site have Grade 1 significance, the nomination is forwarded to the SAHRA Council for approval. Should the site be deemed to have Grade 2 or 3 significance, the nomination is then referred to the relevant PHRA or Local Authority.

The second step is to Declare the site, this is the formal recognition of the site’s status.

Once the site is graded as having National Significance (grade 1), SAHRA will then start the process of declaration, which includes extensive Public Participation and planning for the management of the site. Once SAHRA’s Council has approved the declaration, a notice of the decision is published in the Government Gazette. The site is then declared and protected.

It is important to have an Integrated Conservation Management Plan to ensure the site will be well managed and used sustainably. Click here for more on management plans

As community and public participation is important in the management of our heritage, the legislation has a powerful component in which communities and interested and affected parties must be consulted before a site can be declared, including obtaining the owner’s consent and representation. All parties are given at least 60 days to respond and make submissions regarding the proposed declaration, amendment or withdrawal.

Once the site has been formally declared, no person may, without a permit from the relevant authority:
– Destroy, damage, deface, excavate or alter the site
– Remove from it original position
– Subdivide or change the planning status of the site

To nominate a site for declaration as a National Heritage Site complete the nomination form manually or on SAHRIS: http://www.sahra.org.za/sahris/sahris

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