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A victory for Bo-Kaap residents?

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After scenes of chaos and violence yesterday, Wednesday saw its second wave of protests against gentrification in Bo-Kaap. Residents took to the streets on Tuesday to block a crane from entering the area to access a building site.

Protests against high-rise buildings in the area has long been a contentious issue, with residents requesting for Bo-Kaap to be pegged as a heritage site.

Property development group Blok is currently in the process of building a 12-storey apartment complex in Lion Street. On Monday, 12th November, Blok issued an interdict against Bo-Kaap residents, banning them from interfering or obstructing construction.

Five people, including one woman and four men, were arrested during Tuesday’s protests.
According to one of the Bo-Kaap legal representatives Seehaam Samaai, those arrested were charged in terms of the Road Traffic Act and the contravention of an interdict.

The charges were dropped on Wednesday morning after the residents appeared in court and were represented by Igsaan Higgins, Sehaam Samaai, Nasreen Taliep and Mushtaq Holland.

“We negotiated with the senior public prosecutor and after a lot of toing and froing we eventually managed to get the senior prosecutor to withdraw all charges,” Higgins said.

One of the arrested residents said from inside the police van that Blok should adhere to the interdict they filed and first hear the court ruling before bringing their cranes into the area.

“The court date was set for 6th December but they’re bringing in the crane today (Tuesday). Why don’t we wait until the 6th and hear what the court says and we’ll take it from there. So now you (Blok) bring your crane in today and when the crane is up and the 6th comes, you withdraw your case and it’s a win-win situation for you,” said the arrested resident.

Videos of yesterday’s violent confrontation circulating on social media caused anger among Cape Town residents, with many describing it as police brutality. Member of the Bo-Kaap Collective Shafwaan Loubsher said the video footage was proof of this.

“The protest was always peaceful. Personally, we were manhandled and brutality was at its highest by police and law enforcement.”

The violence prompted an emergency meeting called by the Bo Kaap Civic and Ratepayers Association and the Bo Kaap Collective at the Boorhanol Centre last night. Emotions were high as Bo Kaap residents slammed local and national government and political parties for not taking their plight seriously.

Loubsher added that none of the invited city officials attended Tuesday evening’s meeting.
“The ward councillor made no appearance yesterday and he was even summoned by the community during the protest. He kept on telling us that he was on his way but was never present,” Loubsher said.

He further added that the leader of the ANC in the Western Cape Xolani Sotashe and the first president of the Muslim Judicial Council (MJC) Irafaan Abrahams were the only ones who made an effort to address the people of Bo-Kaap.

“There was definitely support from all other areas and organisations except for our own DA ward councillor (Brandon Golding), which is quite concerning.”

The issue of unity in the Bo Kaap community was another sticking point raised by residents, after many expressed anger over an alleged agreement between Blok and the Bo Kaap Youth Movement (BKYM), in which the organisation purportedly gave permission for the cranes to enter the area. Outraged residents questioned BKYM’s legitimacy and why it went ahead with the alleged agreement when it did not have a mandate from residents to do so.

“We want to know who is the membership of BKYM and who gave them permission to make this decision on behalf of the community!” said one irate resident at the meeting.

A copy of BKYM’s statement on this matter has been publicly released, however members have declined to speak to VOC News on the matter since the protests yesterday.

Loubsher said he believes the protests are having an impact on Blok.

“Financially I’m sure it’s having a huge impact on Blok. I believe the sales of the units or apartments are not going very well, he said, citing workers statements.

The crane was escorted by private security vehicles and SAPS on Wednesday. Bo-Kaap residents chanted and cheered as the crane left.

“This is a resistance. We definitely have one voice going forward. We are a united front.”

VOC News has contacted property developers Blok for comment and was referred to their legal team for comment. Comment was not made available by time of publishing.

By: Zaahidah Meyer


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