De Lille allegedly blocked Bo-Kaap's heritage protection

Cape Town mayor Patricia de Lille allegedly prevented that the Bo-Kaap be declared a heritage area, meaning the historic neighbourhood's residents weren't protected against greedy developers insensitive to their culture.

This claim, contained in law firm Bowmans' report into maladministration at the city, might help clear up a "mystery" that has been plaguing the colourful neighbourhood's residents as to why the Bo-Kaap hasn't been declared heritage zone yet, despite it first being mooted in 2013.

Bowmans recommended to the Cape Town city council that this matter be further investigated.

City council adopted the report behind closed doors during Thursday's dramatic council meeting, which saw De Lille rail against her detractors and dismissing the allegations against her "as racist, bully attacks" and saw five of her acolytes resign as DA councillors, including chief whip Shaun August. 

Council's adoption of the report means De Lille, mayoral committee member Brett Herron and some officials would be subject to disciplinary investigations by the City or criminal investigations by the police. De Lille and Herron have criticised the report and pleaded their innocence.

In their report, in a section dealing with heritage management and protection, Bowmans states that it was informed that the city had a statutory obligation to give protection to identified and graded heritage places.

It received a submission from employees within the Environmental and Heritage Management Branch: Metro Office (EHMB), which alleges that the Environmental Management Department is unable to perform this mandate.

The submission also states: "There is interference and obstruction through instructions from the Mayor P de Lille in the department's management and administration of local heritage resources. Protection of identified heritage resources is a duty and mandate, as approved by full Council…" (sic).

Heritage sites not protected

This means potential heritage sites are not protected when there are applications by developers.

"According to the submission, the interference has the consequence that daily development applications in proposed heritage places, are not being treated with the legally required local heritage protection because formal protection is not yet in place – reference is made to the protests in Bo-Kaap," the Bowman's report reads.

The submission lists Bo-Kaap and Pinelands as examples of where this occurred. De Lille's private residence is in the suburb Pinelands.

In December 2015, applications commenced for Heritage Protection Overlay Zones (HPOZ) for the Bo-Kaap and Pinelands. A resident of Pinelands, who is also a former politician, objected to the land use of Pinelands, copying De Lille in the objection. The former politician isn't named. 

De Lille said the heritage work couldn't proceed.

"Notwithstanding full Council delegation and sub-delegated authority, the EM [executive mayor, De Lille] instructed that they (Environmental Management), cannot proceed and must obtain her approval prior to conducting the heritage work," reads the Bowmans report.

The Environmental Management Department's executive director instructed that a report be drafted for De Lille's attention seeking permission to proceed with the top five priority HPOZs. 

According to Bowmans, the legitimacy of De Lille's instruction not to proceed with the heritage work was questionable due to: 

- Council already having approved the district plans and the authority to commence consultation being in place; and

- De Lille's instruction was an obstruction of the delegated officials’ authority to commence with participation and consultation for heritage areas.

"On submission of this report to the Legal Services Department for statutory compliance, the legal office would not sign it (no reasons were provided)," the Bowmans report reads.

The report was then converted to a "request for permission to proceed" in the form of a letter addressed to De Lille, and not a formal submission, thereby negating the requirement that it be submitted to the mayoral committee. 

"More than 3 years have passed since the attempt at designating Bo-Kaap as an HPOZ and since the instruction from [De Lille] to halt, was given," reads the report. 

'No feedback from De Lille since 2015'

"There has not been any feedback since the 2015 letter to the EM requesting permission to proceed."

The report states that as recent as 24 May 2018, Herron is quoted in the Cape Times as stating that the Bo-Kaap has heritage protection. It says this statement is not correct as De Lille halted the protection by withholding permission to proceed.

Included in the EHMB employees' submission is correspondence suggesting De Lille's involvement and influence or direction as to how to proceed with Heritage Protection Overlays.

An official said at a meeting in February 2016 that "EIA [environmental impact assessment] and heritage are dirty words to the Mayor" and when she was challenged by staff she stated "she has the authority. If you don’t like it you are free to leave the City", according to the submission to Bowmans.

The submission further relates how De Lille said at a meeting with city officials, SAHRA and councillors on August 22, 2013, to discuss the heritage issues of Langa: "The heritage of Langa is rubbish. Langa is designated by the same person who designated Pinelands. I live in Pinelands and that's also rubbish". 

Bowmans recommends that council consider conducting a preliminary investigation into these allegations in order to test its veracity. 

"The preliminary investigation may further crystallise the allegations raised and inform what procedures a detailed investigation would require, if so recommended," the report reads.

In June and July Bo-Kaap residents protested gentrification and developments insensitive to the neighbourhood's heritage and culture. 

People's Post reported that Bo-Kaap community members handed over a memorandum to City officials, which demanded that the HPOZ be signed into effect immediately.

The motion states: "During the recent protests in the Bo-Kaap the mystery around why the Bo-Kaap HPOZ has still not been implemented again came to light. [Brandon] Golding, the current ward councillor, has met with local civic associations to discuss this matter and committed to finding out more as to why there has been a delay in the implementation of the HPOZ."

GroundUp reported that in 2013, sub-council 16 called for the Bo-Kaap to be declared a HPOZ. In 2015 proposals from the Bo-Kaap Civic Association together with the City's environmental resource management department followed, saying a HPOZ would "assist with the preservation of the cultural heritage of the Bo-Kaap".

The same report quotes Herron as saying that "work on the HPOZ for the Bo-Kaap is ongoing".

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