A weeping princess gave vlei its name

There’s an urban legend about how the Princess Vlei in Grassy Park came to be and how the body of water got its name.

According to Khoi Chief Hendrik “Hennie” van Wyk, the legend tells of a Khoisan princess who lived on the slopes of the Constantiaberg Mountains – specifically the caves known by locals as the Prinsekasteel.

The cave, now known as the Elephant’s Eye has two streams, Prinseskasteelrivier and Prinskasteelrivier, which run to the wetlands.

Legend has it that the princess bathed in the waters when Portuguese sailors ab- ducted, violated or murdered her, though the tales vary.

The woman’s tears were unstoppable and flowed down the slopes to the place we now know as the Princess Vlei.

Mr Van Wyk, Chief of the Gorochouqua Khoi tribe was born in Vredendal in 1936 and he observed the last days of colonial rule and the transition to the apartheid regime in 1948.

In 1951 he moved to Cape Town, specifically, Retreat.

In 1960 he got married and moved to Sibelius Avenue in Retreat and there after to Concert Boulevard, now known as Joe Marks Boulevard.

It was only about four years ago that Mr Van Wyk moved to Grassy Park where he still lives.

Mr Van Wyk speaks fondly of the Southern Mail and the first time he was interviewed by our former reporters Chantle Hoffmann, Helen Bamford and Raphael Wolf.

“Through the paper I became well known in the communities and I built stronger relationships this way.

“The Southern Mail played a very good and major role in raising the issues that were affecting the community,” said Mr Van Wyk.

“I haven’t been very involved in the paper recently but I am glad that the battle of the Princess has been won and that it was reported on by the Southern Mail – the battle to ensure that we keep a green lung within our communities,” said Mr Van Wyk referring to the announcement in March 2014 that saw the City of Cape Town back down and halt plans to develop a mall at the vlei.

The saga between the City and environmental lobbying groups had been ongoing for more than 15 years at the time.

“My wish for the Princess Vlei for the next 30 years is for a Khoi monument to be erected at the vlei, for it to become a world heritage sight and a tourist attraction,” said Mr Van Wyk.