Despite the redevelopment project in District Six well into its third phase, residents of the area have expressed concern that an iconic piece of land has not been included in the project. Their concerns have been further accentuated by the Cape Peninsula University of Technology’s (CPUT) decision to start construction of two student residences on the land in question.
Members of the Seven Steps ex-residents’ club of District Six have been shocked to discover that thedevelopment between the Moravian Chapel on the hill and Keizergracht, is not part of the redevelopment of District Six as they had believed it to be.
The director of the District Six Museum, Bonita Bennett, noted that construction on the student residences had already begun, and she expressed concern that the development would affect the heritage of the site.
“The issue at stake here is that development is at a site that has been very special to the community in terms of memorialising the areas heritage,” she said.
The site in question was situated at the end of the old Hanover street, where the community frequented as an act of remembrance, bringing stones and placing it at the site in memory of those family members who had passed on. She said the community were now in uproar, because that tradition was now under threat.
“People are very surprised, because the agreement has always been that whatever development happens on the sight, has to take into account the past. People are not unreasonable, they understand the Technikon needing residences, but there has been no consultation,” she said.
Despite the Technikon being well in their rights to develop on the land, she said the circumstances in which CPUT acquired that land still weighed heavily on the hearts of those in the District area. She called on CPUT to enter into discussions with the District Six community to work towards a solution to the issue.
Responding to her concerns, CPUT vice chancellor, Dr Prins Nevhutalu, said there was an acknowledgement from the university that the entire Cape Town campus was located on a site from which residents were forcibly removed.
“I take the position that the Cape Town campus of CPUT, is a District Six campus. That institution belongs to the people of District Six,” he said.
Having had discussions with the head of the student residences project, Nevhutalu said the university had opted to preserve the site in question and would be meeting with Bennett to discuss the issue.
He added they would look to initiate a project that would work with the people of District Six to see how best their heritage could be preserved. VOC (Mubeen Banderker)