Protesting Bo-Kaap residents claim small victory as crane leaves, charges dropped

Bo-Kaap residents cheered and waved as a crane belonging to construction company Blok left the neighbourhood on Wednesday.

A handful of elderly people waited peacefully for hours for the removal of the crane – a far cry from the violent events that took place on Tuesday when residents' efforts to block the crane's progress led to the arrest of five people.

"Allah has granted us a short victory. Our fight is going to continue," Bo-Kaap Collective leader Shafwaan Loubscher said.

"Our fight is not going to stop here. We will continue with our fight for the liberation of Bo-Kaap. Our fight against anti-gentrification will continue."

On Tuesday, police escorted the crane to the Blok construction site in 40 Lion Street against the wishes of the community.

Despite their efforts to block the transportation of the crane, it reached its destination and a violent altercation led to the arrests.

MJC shocked by 'police brutality'

Those charges have now been dropped.

"All the charges were withdrawn. They were charged with contravening the Road Traffic Act and contravention of the interim interdict obtained by Blok," lawyer Seehaam Samaai said.

"The charges were withdrawn because they were difficult to prove."

The Muslim Judicial Council (MJC) expressed its shock at "the blatant display of police brutality toward the elderly residents of Bo-Kaap".

"The way the police and a private security company manhandled our elderly mothers and fathers in the community is appalling," MJC secretary general Shaykh Isgaak Taliep said.

"The brutality of the police and the private security company must be investigated and those found to use excessive force must be harshly disciplined."

The MJC also acknowledged the community's pleas for the neighbourhood to be declared a heritage site.

"Years of pleas to declare Bo-Kaap a heritage site have fallen on deaf ears," a statement read.

"It is for this reason that the residents have decided to peacefully protest – a right enshrined in the Bill of Rights – against gentrification in the area."

However, Blok clarified in a statement that the delivery attempt was planned via a safe and quick route that would cause the least inconvenience to residents and businesses.

"The necessary permits were in place and neighbouring homes as well as community stakeholders were provided notice ahead of the delivery in accordance with the law. A small self-interested group has unlawfully interfered with previous deliveries and there is currently an interdict in place to prevent any further interference by this group, not the entire community as alleged.

"As per the court order, law enforcement was informed of the delivery and after their security assessment, made the necessary arrangements to prevent the kind of violent interference experienced during previous delivery attempts and to ensure the safety of the hundreds of staff working on the construction site," the statement said.

But law enforcement officers had to withdraw from the area to address issues in other parts of the city.

Blok claimed that after being concerned about the various threats of violence, it decided to postpone the delivery to secure the safety of the staff and property.

"We are disappointed and concerned by yesterday's violence and appreciate the co-operation of our neighbours as well as other stakeholders within the community to date, who we will continue to communicate and engage with," said Lailey.

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