Tribute to heritage campaigner

A picture sent to Tabletalk by Mari-Lou Rouex in November 2015 when we first reported on the dire state of the cottage. In this undated picture, Highclere still has a complete sea view.

The death of heritage activist Mari-Lou Roux, 86, will close the door on the Habitat Council, a body which fought many battles to preserve heritage properties across the country.

Ms Roux died on Friday September 29, in Somerset West, after a fall in which she fractured her hip.

She would be remembered “for her tireless efforts to save our natural and architectural heritage for future generations”, said Blouberg resident Susan Starke.

Ms Roux had campaigned for the preservation of the historic cottage, Highclere, in Rancke Road, Bloubergstrand (“Historic home left in limbo,” Tabletalk, November 25, 2015).

Ms Starke remembered Ms Roux’s fight to save Highclere and other important buildings from demolition.

“Highclere is one of the few remaining seaside cottages with so much of its surrounding wall still intact but, sadly, historic buildings are neglected and then considered not worthy of restoration.

“Mari-Lou was such a courageous woman and I am so proud to have known her,” said Ms Starke, who lives in one of the last four seaside cottages in Blouberg.

Ms Roux was the CEO of the Habitat Council at the time of her death, and as late as last month, she spoke about court cases the council was currently involved in.

President of the Habitat Council, Dr Diek van der Zel, said Ms Roux had served it for 22 years, and as far back as 1994, had opposed plans for it to be closed.

During a discussion last month, they had agreed that it would wind up its affairs.

“She agreed that Habitat Council had served its purpose but reminded me of the two court cases, which should first be brought to conclusion, before winding up of Habitat Council itself,” said Dr Van der Zel.

The two court cases involve the Martin Melck building in Cape Town and Highclere, which pre-dates 1870 (“High noon for Highclere,” Tabletalk, May 18, 2016).

In his tribute to Ms Roux, Dr Van der Zel said that in a time when there was a push for development at all costs, she had led the fight to protect heritage.

“She has been an example as a woman, linguist, culture warrior, community leader, in many projects where she took charge,” he said.

In a Facebook post, Blouberg resident Hendrik Lamprecht paid tribute to Ms Roux, remembering how they met because of the fight for Highclere.

Mr Lamprecht was one of the residents, along with Ms Starke, who took up the battle for Highclere when he noticed a demolition notice at the cottage in 2011.

In his post he said he had once asked her if she ever slept, Ms Roux remarked that she sometimes worked through the night on heritage issues. Ms Roux’s memorial service was held at the Duth Reformed Church in Somerset West on Monday October 9.