Organisers have pulled the plug on the inaugural 2020 Human Rights Cycle tour, due to red tape by the City of Cape Town. The event, considered the first of its kind, was scheduled to take place in the Mother City on the 29th March 2020. The event organisers cancelled the race after the City refused to sign off on certain routes, despite them submitting 17 versions of the race route.
The event organisers, led by the Al Kaaf Human Rights Centre and Palestine Museum, had been engaged in negotiations with the City over the past twenty months. Speaking to VOC on Wednesday, director Dr Anwah Nagia said they are bitterly disappointed with the turn of events, saying the race was being thrown out “because of logistical nonsense”.
“All we asked for was that the roads we normally use, the roads used for the Argus Cycle Tour, the roads closed for the jazz festival and other events, that a similar gesture is made to us. After 17 humiliating denials, we couldn’t take it anymore and had to tell our sponsors that this race is cancelled,” he said.
“The whole process was one of upheavals, frustration and uncertainty. All because of the bureaucratic nature and impediment of City officials.”
The unique 75km route aimed to traverse areas where many human rights memorials and landmarks exist, such as the Trojan horse massacre. Nagia said they wanted to organise an event that remembers the “fallen heroes of Cape Town” who paid the price for freedom.
According to Nagia, city officials had initially agreed to the date and the 75-kilometre distance, but the routes remained the main bone of contention. Concerns were raised about the Thornton and Gugulethu routes and the challenge of traffic management.
“The City doesn’t come to meetings. We even hired another company to deal with the City, only to be stonewalled,” he said.
Organisers were told to go back to the drawing board to adjust the routes. The City’s executive director for Safety and Security, Richard Bosman said the event application for support for the Human Rights Cycle Tour was discussed by the Special Events Committee (SpevCo), but the committee could not finalise discussions due to the “logistical shortcomings”.
“This was the second year that the organisers have attempted to host the event; however, due to concerns raised about logistics and the feasibility of the race route provided by the event organiser, the City was not in a position to issue the event with a permit,” he explained.
“The event organisers were also informed that the proposed event date clashed with an approved event which would have made logistical arrangements more difficult. For all events, the City of Cape Town has the responsibility to ensure the safety of participants, spectators and officials. The City’s event permit office must ensure that events don’t have an adverse effect on traffic and the movement of residents in their areas.”
According to the City, all events are regulated by national legislation under the Safety at Sport and Recreation Events Act (SASREA). These requirements were explained to the event organisers by the Events Coordinating Committee (ECC).
“The event organisers have to ensure that all logistics are in place to ensure the safety of participants and spectators and minimize disruptions to residents and road users,” said Bosman.
Bosman said the Roads Department, Traffic services and MyCiTi services raised concerns with regards to the route plan submitted by the organiser.
“The event organisers proposed the closure of several roads which would have required the MyCiTi service to cease operation in several areas. This would have significant impact on commuters and traffic in several areas.”
But the event organisers stood firm that some of the routes are “non-negotiable”.
“The Thornton road route allows youth to understand that their freedoms were at the benefit of young people brutally murdered by the apartheid regime,” Nagia said.
Despite their dissatisfaction that the City would not provide the traffic, security and sanitation services at no cost, Nagia said he was not deterred and undertook to personally pay the shortfall.
Nagia said senior provincial and city officials had agreed to the event in principle, but their actions spoke differently. He believes there is a clear political agenda at play and that bureaucratic processes are being used as a guise to make it difficult for the organisation to get approval for the event.
“We are so saddened by this. The only thing I can believe is that this is political interference because of our connection to the Palestine museum. So the officials frustrated us…”
The event’s corporate sponsors were dismayed by the cancellation but are supporting the decision. Whether the event can be pushed to a later date, remains uncertain.
“We won’t give up. The struggle for human rights is a hard-fought struggle. We thank the community and our sponsors for their support,” said Nagia.