The Bo-Kaap Youth Movement held a closed press conference on Thursday in response to allegations that the movement entered into an agreement with development company Blok to allow for the construction of high-rise buildings in the area.
A member of BKYM Robyn Moore said the group is registered as a non-profit company with four focus areas which include: land and housing, sport, tourism and job creation. Moore added that BKYM will protect, promote and enhance the heritage resources in or related to Bo-Kaap.
Bo-Kaap residents have been in conflict with Blok developers since June of this year when the company applied to start construction in the area.
According to the developers, the buildings intended to “unlock potential bulk on existing sites earmarked for development”.
In September of 2017, Blok quoted the following with regard to their plans for their first project in the area: “The goal is to evolve a model that can be used to illustrate the potential role of developers in shaping our city and to create awareness around their ability to undertake similar projects that will begin to assist in contributing well-located, inclusionary urban housing that is targeted at the stretched middle market.”
But residents sang a different tune and said the commercial buildings would destroy the areas rich Muslim heritage and damage infrastructure. Several protests have taken place since then, with residents’ adamant that the buildings would not benefit them and would disrupt their daily lives.
In retaliation, Blok took out interdicts against residents who made attempts to “deter the constructions” and said they were “illegally and unlawfully trespassing”. Residents then engaged in a legal battle against Blok, having said their basic right to freedom of movement is being infringed upon.
The residents, members of the Bo-Kaap Civic and Rates-payers Association and Bo Kaap Youth regularly led the struggle against Blok.
In a surprising turn of events, the youth organisation met with developers in July and signed an agreement.
At that point, they were still Bo Kaap Youth and other members did not know the agreement was signed in secret.
The activist group also got a legal opinion on the sale of the land which they did not share but is narrowly interpreted in favour of the developer. The first interdict was dropped as the one director of BKYM, who was cited as a respondent, is the same one who allegedly signed with Blok without informing others.
In the recent interdict papers earlier this month, it was revealed that an agreement was made which allowed Blok developers to proceed with their constructions, allegedly without public participation.
Blok also took out an interdict preventing anyone from obstructing the path of construction vehicles from reaching its designated site in Lions Street.
The movement is accused by residents of signing this agreement in exchange for money.
In the press conference today, the movement denied these allegations, having said the only agreement entered was that of finding an amicable solution after Blok had already obtained legal rights to build.
This controversial agreement led to huge division in the organisation and matters escalated when some members broke away and the remaining members formed BKYM.
The breakaway group formed the Bo Kaap Collective, comprising of residents, legal, young professionals and elders.
Last week, protests broke out once again which resulted in violent clashes with police.
The movement will now host a public meeting on the 6th of December to discuss residents’ concerns and the allegations made against them.