'Today, business won' - Bo-Kaap residents fail in their bid to keep a crane out of the area

2018-11-20 21:21
Bo-Kaap residents protest against high-rise buildings (Christina Pitt, News24)

Bo-Kaap residents protest against high-rise buildings (Christina Pitt, News24)

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WATCH: Bakkie careens down Bo-Kaap hill, narrowly misses woman

2018-11-02 11:47

A woman narrowly escaped injury as a bakkie came careening down a hill in the Bo-Kaap. Video footage of the incident surfaced online recently. WATCH.WATCH

Public Order Police escorted cranes into the Bo-Kaap despite residents' best efforts to keep the machines out on Tuesday.

Residents of all ages blocked the crane, destined for a construction site owned by property developer Blok, from entering the suburb via Bloem Street. Their action resulted in the closure of Buitengracht Street in the CBD and caused traffic congestion.

When they refused to clear the street, police used stun grenades to disperse the crowd and arrested four people in the process.

"There was a group of elderly ladies that came down this morning to protest peacefully. One minute we're standing, the next minute they're grabbing the ladies and putting one of them in the van. She did nothing, but the police were pulling her," resident Sumaya Ramjan explained.

"This is supposed to be a peaceful protest. We don't know why they are pushing us and arresting us. This is our right. It is a peaceful protest. It's pathetic what's happening in our area."

The lawyer representing the four people arrested, Seehaam Samaai, says they have been charged in terms of the Road Traffic Act and of being in contravention of an interdict.

The residents are attempting to preserve their community, which they are adamant is a heritage site.

"We have all the old people being pushed out of the community because the rates right now are R2 000 and the pension is below that," vocal resident Zakarya Baker said.

"So even with their pension, they can't pay the basic rates. That's aside from paying for food and supporting their families."

READ: Four arrested after Bo-Kaap protesters block crane from entering area

The community felt betrayed by the police following the altercation involving the crane.

"We live in a country where there is a lot of violence and inequity and economic disparity between people of colour and white people," he explained.

"When the police don't show up when people are getting shot on the Cape Flats, then we see the police here just because there are 30 peaceful protesters – we just feel very betrayed." 

Once the crane reached the construction site, residents confronted police and expressed their frustration.

"I am sad for the people of Bo-Kaap. I am sad for the people of Cape Town because today, business won. In fact, white business won today, I must say as a person of colour," a resident told News24.

Blok's lawyer from Norton Rose Fulbright, Lauren Fine, said she had not received instructions from her client and could therefore not comment.

Bo-Kaap residents protest against high-rise buildi

Bo-Kaap residents protest against high-rise buildings (Christina Pitt, News24)

News24 managed to obtain a copy of the application for an interim interdict against the Bo-Kaap Neighbourhood Watch as well as the community (all other persons causing obstructions, unlawfully conducting themselves or attempting to cause obstructions or unlawfully conduct themselves).

The interdict restricts residents from obstructing the route or interfering with the transportation of the mobile crane to and from the construction site at 40 Lion Street.

They are also prohibited from entering the construction site on 40 Lion Street and from vandalising, sabotaging or committing arson to any of Blok's property – including construction vehicles.

The application documents the history of the protest action which began in May 2018.

It states that Blok "implemented a rigorous public engagement campaign and sought to engage various roleplayers and stakeholders" in 2017.

This issue has been heavily contested by the Bo-Kaap residents.

Bo-Kaap residents protest against high-rise buildi

Bo-Kaap residents protest against high-rise buildings (Christina Pitt, News24)

The development of the residential units at the construction site was approved by the City of Cape Town on March 13, 2018.

Blok claims that fire was set to the construction site and the containers were petrol bombed. Armed people also entered the site and their employees were intimidated and death threats were directed at them.

An interim interdict against the residents and the City of Cape Town was then obtained in July. However, the violence escalated.

"At 23:00 on 11 July 2018, four unidentified men petrol bombed the construction site, again causing damage to the hoarding. Fortunately, the security personnel managed to contain and extinguish the fire," read the interdict application.

"Other developments in the area were attacked, resulting in injury to two persons following the petrol bombing of a site."

Thereafter, Blok claims that the Bo-Kaap Youth Movement reached out to them "in order to de-escalate the ongoing and ever escalating violence and the opportunity was seized."

An invitation was extended to all the respondents, however only the Bo-Kaap Youth Movement participated. 

Although many residents deny that any public participation took place, News24 is in possession of the correspondence between Blok and the concerned parties.

Samaai explained that while Blok had implemented a consultation process, they had only contacted individuals and had failed to include the community.

Letter

"The outcome included the cessation of violent protest action and the signing of a collaboration agreement between the applicant and Bo-Kaap Youth," the interdict application said.

Bo-Kaap residents protest against high-rise buildi

Bo-Kaap residents protest against high-rise buildings (Christina Pitt, News24)

Many residents refuse to acknowledge the agreement.

"I am a part of this community. I am a resident. No one spoke to me. They never had meetings, they never did nothing," Ramjan said.

"Who gives them the right to sign this? They don't speak for us. I want that to be made clear."

Bo-Kaap Civic Association secretariat Jacky Poking said: "It's not legal and we don't recognise it'."

The protests ceased, but once Blok attempted to transport a tower crane into the community in August, they were once again met with resistance.

Every attempt to deliver the crane was then obstructed by the community which continues to hinder what they believe to be a process of gentrification.

Read more on:    cape town  |  protests
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