The Bo-Kaap community are determined to challenge any construction of high-rise buildings, as anger grows over a contested development near the iconic St Monica’s Home. Residents have vowed to fight the property developing company Blok, after the company sought a court interdict against the community to stop any form of opposition to the construction. The construction of the 12 floor apartment block is currently underway in Lion Street.
Residents on Monday evening gathered for a public meeting at the Boorhaanol Centre to discuss the recent court interdict, which it believes infringes on the rights of residents to freedom of movement. The court interdict means that any individual actively trespassing the site could now face prosecution. The judge, however, said protests by residents in Wale Street can continue. The community has recently raised the issue of safety hazards and the damage caused on roads and infrastructure due to construction vehicles entering the area.
Chairperson of the Bo-Kaap Ratepayers and Civic Association, Osman Shabodien, explained that while residents voiced their anger about reason events, the meeting focussed on the facilitation of how the community can comply with the court order, but continue to raise their concerns.
The process is being facilitated by of shaykh Dawood Terblanche and the Human Rights Commission’s Fadlah Adams.
“It does not mean that we accept the development in Lions Street, because we do feel that it is illegal,” Shaboodien stated.
Shaboodien said with two schools in the proximity of the construction site, namely Vista High School and St Pauls Primary School, pupils and parents are expected to be inconvenienced by the constant flow of construction vehicles into the area once schools reopen next week.
“Our main concern is safety, the infrastructure in Bo-Kaap that is being damaged terribly by these heavy vehicles and our day-to-day life has been disrupted,” he noted.
In addition, residents have raised concerns that due to the age of their homes, cracks may form on their properties.
“They have put these pylons inside the ground and Bo-Kaap is not a flat area, so there is a lot of excavation and a lot of rocks and these things make a lot of noise.”
Shaboodien further confirmed that the community will now be looking at the legality of the sale of the property in question.
“There are a number of issues that we are looking into; the legality of the sale of St Monica’s Home because we feel that public donated ground [such as] that should not have been sold to a developer.
“Secondly, we are looking at our safety, our infrastructure and our things around that site and other sites.”
He said members of the legal fraternity have offered their assistance pro bono.
Shaboodien said he was grateful for the support the Bo-Kaap community received from the broader community of the Cape.
“Last night we had the president of the MJC [Muslim Judicial Council] there, shaykh Irafaan Abrahams, which gave us much more hope that the battle in Bo-Kaap is not a battle that we have to fight alone, but we are going to win the war.”
The Bo-Kaap Civic Association has opposed last week’s interdict and has requested more time to respond. Another hearing has been set down for August.
Meanwhile, on the sidelines of the community meeting, the African National Congress’ Youth League (ANCYL) in the Western Cape met with representatives of the Bo-Kaap Civic Association and the Bo-Kaap Youth in a closed meeting.
Provincial Secretary Mohamad Khalid Sayed explained the meeting, which spanned over one hour, focussed on the concerns raised by residents over the construction in Lion Street and broadly touched on the issue of apparent gentrification of the area.
Given the nature of the discussions, Sayed noted that he is unable to provide details of the meeting at this stage.
“The nature of what we discussed is very sensitive. [So] we don’t want to compromise the struggle of the community in the public space at the moment – it was quite a strategic discussion,” Sayed stated.
He said that since the process began, members of the Bo-Kaap youth have been lobbying the ANCYL to support their struggle politically.
“The ANCYL was there at the beginning when this particular struggle started, we have identified with the struggle and the ANC also identifies with the struggle; it speaks to our outlook in wanting to build a truly integrated city of Cape Town.
“What we have seen in Bo-Kaap basically a promotion of gentrification on the part of the City of Cape Town [which is] basically promoting private developers above the rights of the people. A struggle against that naturally appeals to what we stand for as the ANC and its youth league; hence we decided to get involved,” he added.
Khalid confirmed that as the official opposition, the ANC will be engaging with City officials around the issue of Bo-Kaap.
He said the ANCYL opposes any construction if a proper consultation process with the affected community is not followed and if the development is not within the bounds of the law.
“If the people don’t want it, then we also identify with the people – we identify with what the people don’t want.”
Given concerns raised around the form of protest action adopted by Bo-Kaap youth since May this year, Khalid said that the focus should remain on the conditions that have been created that have caused the youth to resort to the burning of tyres and the blocking of roads.
“Nobody has been killed, nobody has been robbed and nobody has been harmed in the process. There comes a time – and it’s within the nature of young people – where young people need to go to certain lengths and do radical things.
“We saw the recent case of Roscoe Jacobs in Hout Bay where he had to actually go on a hunger strike before government just listened and gave him a hearing and that’s the sad reality. Sometimes young people are forced to resort to those measures,” Sayed continued.
According to Khalid, the ANCYL has been engaging with a number of other communities around the issue of housing and service delivery, including Scottsdene, Khayelitsha, Thembalethu in George and in the Overberg.”
“Housing is the dominant issue… [But] also lack of access to land for the building of houses for the people.”