From the news desk

BK Civic files its answering affidavit contesting Blok


While the public-participation process to designate Bo-Kaap as a Heritage Protection Overlay Zone (HPOZ) has begun, two important legal processes are now underway to stop the continuous development of the contentious Blok apartment complex. On 21 January 2019, the Bo-Kaap Civic and Ratepayers Association (BKCRA) filed their answering affidavit in the court case against the Bo-Kaap community, following the second application by BLOK developers to interdict the entire Bo-Kaap community.

The issue dates back to Ramadan last year when daily protests by Bo Kaap youth were initiated to bring attention to the issue of gentrification and heritage in the historic area. While Bo Kaap activists highlighted the increased number of high-rise buildings being developed, a spotlight was placed on the construction at the Blok site in Lion street and how that has impacted on the lives of residents. Blok is currently building a 12-storey luxury apartment block on the open land adjacent to the St Monica’s Home for Older Persons – in a neighbourhood of predominantly one and two storey homes. Some Bo Kaap residents protested at the building site, which lead to Blok launching its first interdict application against the entire Bo-Kaap community on 4 July 2018.

This interdict was served at central locations throughout Bo-Kaap and was announced via loudhailers from a police vehicle, a manner the BKCRA says was “reminiscent of the apartheid era”. The interdict aimed to prevent the community from exercising their constitutional right to peacefully protest the development.
Judge Henney heard BLOK’s first interdict application and ordered the developer to engage with the Bo-Kaap’s Sheikh Dawood Terblanche and the Human Rights Commission (HRC) to address the community’s concerns and act as mediators. During mid-July 2018, the HRC commenced its activities to give effect to Judge Henney’s order.

But according to the BKCRA, BLOK changed their attorneys to Norton Rose Fulbright (NRF) who then “actively undermined” the court instructed mediation process which the HRC was due to convene.
“NRF attorneys created their own parallel process with only one party falsely purporting to represent the Bo-Kaap community, namely the Bo-Kaap Youth Movement,” said the BKCRA in a statement.

On 31 July 2018, BLOK subsequently withdrew their initial interdict application citing that it was done in the ‘spirit of de-escalation’ and that the developers understood that, ‘the Bo-Kaap community are not violent people…(and) BLOK is committed to continue its engagement with representatives of the people of Bo-Kaap’.

This move created a deep split in the community, with the BKCRA pitted against the Bo Kaap Youth Movement on how the matter should be dealt with. There has since been a barrage of criticism against the Bo Kaap Youth Movement levelled by some of its own members, who then left the organisation in the wake of the interdict. Bo Kaap community members have also questioned the mandate of Bo Kaap Youth, after they negotiated with Blok without broader consultation of the community.

On 9 November 2018, BLOK brought a second interdict application before Judge Baartman, which again sought to interdict the Bo-Kaap community. The premise of the second interdict was to permit BLOK’s crane access to their building site without being stopped by the community. This application was also brought against the Bo-Kaap Neighbourhood Watch and a local resident, Mr Ebrahim Christian. Incidentally, the application excluded those cited in the first application, such as the BKCRA and the Bo-Kaap Youth Movement.

At the time of approaching the court, NRF attorneys failed to inform the Judge that BLOK had not complied with Judge Henney’s first order, which stated that BLOK should engage with the HRC for the court instructed mediation process.

“The residents of the Bo-Kaap community were unaware of the second interdict which was only served at the BLOK development at 40 Lion Street – a distance from the central hub of Bo-Kaap,” said the BKCRA.

The situation reached boiling point when a peaceful protest by residents on 20 November 2018, resulted in scuffles with law enforcement officials. Several residents were injured as BLOK attempted to deliver a crane to their construction site. Private security firm PPA-Talon, as well as SAPS, Public Order Policing, Law Enforcement, and Traffic Services were aiding the developer to ensure unhindered delivery of the crane, using excessive restraint methods to disperse the protesters. The protest led to the arrest of several Bo-Kaap residents who were unaware of the existence of the interdict.

“The Bo-Kaap community believes that the omission of its official representative organisation, the BKCRA, as a respondent in the second interdict and the inadequate service process, was purposely done to mislead Judge Baartman and create the impression that only a small group of persons were resisting the BLOK development and the access of its crane to the construction site. This is materially inaccurate as the frustration and resistance to the BLOK development is shared across the community with daily peaceful protests being convened to demonstrate the residents’ dissatisfaction,” said BKCRA.

One of the underlying issues is the sale of the historic St Monica’s site. The St. Monica’s land was historically used for public, social purposes since the early 1900’s when it first operated as a maternity hospital and later an old-age facility. The open land was formerly used as a vegetable garden to grow food for the older persons residing at St. Monica’s Home. This was municipal land up until 2015 when the City of Cape Town relinquished a right over the property, in favour of a private sale which was unknown to the BKCRA up until 2017.

“Noting the housing need in the Bo-Kaap community, this land, together with St. Monica’s Home and its surrounding open erven had been earmarked for decades for public purposes and social housing. The open land is now being developed by BLOK into exclusive, elitist apartment units which are completely unaffordable to the working-class community,” added BKCRA.

According to the organisation, the Bo-Kaap community through, its representative organisation the BKCRA, are opposing the second application on the grounds of abuse of court process; non-compliance with Judge Henney’s order and failure to disclose this to the court; and contempt of court by both BLOK and their community counterpart, the Bo-Kaap Youth Movement. The BKCRA is also contesting the legality of the City of Cape Town’s sale of public land to BLOK in a separate legal process.

In the meantime, interested parties can make their submissions on the Heritage Protection Overlay Zone, which aims to prevent inappropriate development and alterations within an area of significant heritage value. The HPOZ also allows the City of Cape Town to impose conditions to the approval to ensure that the heritage value of the building or site is protected or enhanced.

Apart from the proposed HPOZ, the City will also consider a set of proposed heritage guidelines for the Bo-Kaap when applications for the demolition, alteration and development of sites and buildings within the HPOZ are received. The guidelines will assist with the decision-making process and consideration of the applications.

The proposed HPOZ for the Bo-Kaap extends to the Table Mountain National Park, and includes the northern green verges to the north-west of Strand Street, and includes Buitengracht between the intersections with Carisbrook and Strand Street.

The guideline document is available on the City’s website at www.capetown.gov.za/haveyoursay. The guideline document provides information about the history of the Bo-Kaap and the purpose of the HPOZ, the heritage principles, how the proposed HPOZ will be implemented and managed, and the implications to property owners and potential developers.

Apart from being posted online, the document will be available for public viewing during office hours at the following venues:
• Subcouncil 16 office on the 11th floor at 44 Wale Street
• Metro Office on the 5th floor at 44 Wale Street
• Table Bay District Planning Office on the 2nd floor of the Media City Building on the corner of Adderley Street and Hertzog Boulevard

Objections and comments, together with reasons, may be submitted before or on 22 February 2019:
• By sending an email to lums@capetown.gov.za
• Online at www.capetown.gov.za/haveyoursay
• By visiting the Metro Office or Table Bay District Planning Office

The City will also host a sectoral hearing at the Civic Centre on Saturday, 9 February 2019, where community-based organisations and the business sector will make oral presentations.  VOC


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