The Bothasig Muslim and Cultural Society (BMCS) are seeking answers from City of Cape Town on why their appeal to overturn a ruling against the rezoning of their property was rejected. The area’s Muslim minority has faced several challenges in their attempts to establish a place of worship, in what is considered a predominantly white suburb.
The BMCS have for a number of years operated within a small community hall in the area. But with the Bothasig Muslim community ever expanding, the centre was quickly becoming too small to cater for the roughly 50 Muslim families currently residing in the area. As such, they were forced to approach the area’s ward councilor, who recommended they acquire a particular plot of land. However, the BMCS have endured a difficult battle to have the land rezoned for its intended use.
Having submitted their application on the 20th August 2012, BMCS chairperson Shafiek Benjamin, said it had taken the City nearly two years to provide them with a proper response. Amongst the reasons given for the rejection of the rezoning, was that it would likely have “a negative impact on the residential character of the surrounding area”. The application was reportedly also rejected over concerns of inadequate parking.
“They [City officials] said that although there was sufficient parking, it was considered that the parking would be inadequate in terms of maneuvering, and would cause congestion,” he said.
The BMCS then approached an appeals committee to have the ruling overturned; who subsequently chose to uphold the original ruling. Benjamin said the BMCS were concerned by the reasoning provided for the rejection of the application, describing them as vague and not reasonable.
“To this day we are still trying to understand what they mean by the residential character and what the negative impact of it would be (the proposed centre),” he said.
Responding to the concerns, City of Cape Town Mayco member for Energy, Environmental & Spatial Planning, Dr Johan van der Merwe, stressed that the city had dealt with the application based on merit.
He reiterated that the application was rejected due to concerns regarding the impact a place of worship and a place of instruction would have on the surrounding area. He also pointed to the fact that, although the application met the required number of parking bays, it would still be too small for vehicles to adequately maneuver on the premises, which would likely cause congestion.
“Because this is purely a residential area, the application for a place of worship was not considered appropriate. The City’s transport department considered the impact of traffic implications, and advised that the consequences would be adverse to the surrounding areas,” he said.
Van der Merwe pointed to the fact that the city was growing at a rate 3.7% a year in terms of population and urbanization, and as such, it was important that each application was assessed within its own context. This included the size of the facility, proposed use, and the appropriateness of the location.
He also revealed that upon the application first being submitted, the City had received 15 objections to the proposed rezoning.
MBCS has suggested that they would seek to submit another appeal, possibly directed at City of Cape Town mayor Patricia de Lille. VOC (Mubeen Banderker)