SAHRC conducts court-ordered Bo-Kaap visit following protests over developers

2018-07-25 21:02
SA Human Rights Commissioners Chris Nissen and Andre Gaum during their visit to Bo-Kaap over resident's development concerns (Jenni Evans, News24)

SA Human Rights Commissioners Chris Nissen and Andre Gaum during their visit to Bo-Kaap over resident's development concerns (Jenni Evans, News24)

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WATCH: 'We are being forced from our homes in an apartheid fashion' - Bo-Kaap resident

2018-07-10 15:17

Situated on the mountains wrapped around Cape Town's city centre, Bo-Kaap is considered prime real estate and has investors and developers spending millions on property in the area. WATCH

The South African Human Rights Commission (SAHRC) conducted a court-ordered visit to Cape Town's Bo-Kaap on Wednesday to gather information about why residents took to the streets to protest over new developments there.

"The Human Rights Commission has received complaints from the Bo-Kaap community pertaining to development that is taking place here in particular and we [are] looking into these issues," said one of the Western Cape commissioners, Andre Gaum.

"There's also been a court interdict that has been granted [on July 6] pertaining to this specific development that we are visiting right now," said Gaum, in front of a development under construction on Lion Street.

The interdict prevents community members from doing anything perceived to be damaging to the development following recent street protests and the placing of burning barricades along Buitengracht Street, which runs below the Bo-Kaap.

"The Human Rights Commission has also been asked to have a meeting between all the parties concerned in that matter, to try and see to what extent we can find common ground and resolve some of the matters," said Gaum.

He said his first impressions were that the developments were affecting the character of the community, and that the City of Cape Town's town planning might have to be looked at.

Attractive to developers, moneyed buyers

The SAHRC report containing findings and conclusions will be handed to the court.

A "meeting about a meeting" is scheduled for Wednesday evening, facilitated by the SAHRC between community representatives and developers, to set a date for all parties to discuss the community's grievances versus developers desire to build there.

A parallel residents' meeting is expected to be held in the Bo-Kaap, also on Wednesday evening, to discuss how to proceed to get the area declared a heritage site and prevent further development.

The area has become coveted by developers and moneyed buyers for its proximity to the Cape Town CBD, and its sweeping views of Table Mountain and the harbour.

Bo-Kaap (Jenni Evans, News24)

After being home to generations of descendants from countries such as Indonesia, Malaysia, Turkey, and the living spaces of colonial-era slaves before slavery was abolished, the colourful houses are also a popular tourist spot for out-of-towners.

Part of its legacy is that it housed many of Cape Town's most skilled artisans, and had a musical, cultural, political and religious heritage.

Residents seeing red

Some residents have opted to sell for the high prices offered for their maisonettes and terraced houses as developers sniff out any opportunities, but a growing movement of activists is calling for this to stop to preserve the history and heritage of the area and its close-knit community.

The council's granting of permission for a mixed-use high rise on the corner of Chiappini Street had residents seeing red. Now that construction is well underway, they wanted the commissioners to see the effect this is having on them.

Amina Kathrada said construction goes on outside her house until 03:00 sometimes, and she has had to stand on her stoep and shout at workers to stop.

She said the actual developers were never available for complaints, so the security guards, builders and lorry drivers working under the developers' deadline instructions are bearing the brunt of their frustrations.

The view from a Go Kaap resident's house as a high rise building goes up (Jenni Evans, News24)

"I don't want to take bread out of their mouths," she says of the construction workers working overtime, "but we need our sleep".

The constant noise of the bleeping of trucks reversing and cement mixers delivering cement late at night have reduced her family's conversations to shouting bouts over the noise. They also have to keep all their doors and windows closed regardless of the weather to keep out the dust and noise.

Cemetery under threat

A seamstress who specialises in beaded and detailed formal wear, Kathrada says she feels very bad bringing customers to her house with all the noise.

All 60-year-old Whasielah Soeker wants is to not lose sunlight as the building goes up near her, potentially shadowing her house.

"I need the sun," she says.

One of the posters dotted around Bo-Kaap (Jenni Evans, News24)

She says her vehicle has been damaged at least four times because of the congestion that all the development is causing along the narrow lanes as it is scraped by cars trying to get through.

Even a part of the Tana Baru cemetery seems to be under threat, with a portion of land nearby that has a sweeping view of the harbour potentially going on to the market because a generational inheritance agreement was not written down, leading to a family dispute.

Resident Ebrahim Christian says a hotel also prang up near the Bo-Kaap three years ago, and its managers complained about the noise from one of the Bo-Kaap's mosques.

He said construction at a multi-storey development behind him goes on noisily all through the week, regardless of whether they are saying their prayers, or if it's a Sunday.

Another resident, Yusuf Samsodien, said they were not against development, "if it's within reason".

"But it must fit in with what people are used to here."

He is also perplexed that local residents' attempts to get planning approval for their own extensions drag on or are rejected, and calls for grass verges to be cut and potholes fixed are ignored, but developers seem to get what they need.

He says he smells a rat at the council. "I can't prove it, but that's how I feel. It is very emotional."

Read more on:    cape town  |  housing

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