Battle to preserve historic site

2016-04-12 06:00
 Vagrancy at the site of the Battle of Muizenberg has raised concerns of damage to the heritage site. PHOTO: nicole mccain

Vagrancy at the site of the Battle of Muizenberg has raised concerns of damage to the heritage site. PHOTO: nicole mccain

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Vagrancy at one of Muizenberg’s most well-known historical sites may be causing irreversible damage to heritage fabric.

The site of the Battle of Muizenberg has become home to a group of street people, locals say, who have damaged a 200-year-old stone wall. Muizenberg Historical society’s Chris Taylor says the stones appear to have been used to make fireplaces.

There is also concern that the growing number of street people may be contributing to crime in the area.

The battle of Muizenberg took place on 7 August in 1795, when the British attacked the then Dutch Cape.

“The British East India Company needed access to the Cape in order to replenish and repair ships and crew on the long journey to and from the Far East. The voyage was too far to make in one run,” Taylor explains.

“In addition to valuable trade opportunities the British had extensive possessions of land in India and elsewhere. This access was fatally threatened during the French Revolution when in 1795 the French overran Holland, making all Dutch possessions – including the Cape – the property of France.”

A slice of historyWith the French being bitter enemies of the British, it was a certainty that the Cape would be closed to British shipping the moment the French took possession, Taylor says.

“In order to prevent the loss of this vital resource a small British fleet was swiftly despatched to the Cape with orders to prevent the French from landing – a holding tactic until a larger force could land and defeat the Dutch. It was this initial little fleet that engaged the Dutch at Muizenberg on 7th August 1795.The Dutch surrender occurred a month later when additional British troops arrived,” he says.

The battle was one of defining importance for colony, with British rule bringing in a new language, new laws, currency and administration. The Cape also opened up to international trade, Taylor says.

Mayco member for social development and early childhood development, Suzette Little, says the premises were secured and locked. “Street people from the area managed to damage the palisade fence and gain access to the property. The City is in the process of securing and repairing the fence.”

Ongoing operationsLast month, the City’s Reintegration Unit, in partnership with Law Enforcement, held an operation in the area, Walker says.

“A total of 14 street people were on site. They were removed and 13 makeshift shelters were dismantled. The individuals were screened and offered assistance by the City’s Social Development Department. The Reintegration Unit will monitor the area on a regular basis and conduct ad-hoc operations,” she says.

Muizenberg police spokesperson Captain Stephen Knapp confirmed the station was aware of the complaints.

However, there has been no marked increase in crime in the vicinity, Knapp says.

“Operations have been launched by Law Enforcement and the Department of Social Development, which Muizenberg police have assisted with. The area has been searched and as with any vagrant situation, this is an ongoing process,” he says.

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