Beach protest

Residents took part in a gentrification protest at Maidens Cove on Heritage Day.

Thousands of people from across Cape Town filled the Maiden’s Cove braai area on Monday (Heritage Day) as part of the bring-and-share picnic and braai by Maiden’s Cove for All( MCA), a non-profit organisation established in June to ensure continued access for all to the public open space at Maiden’s Cove.

The protest – a first of its kind – aimed to highlight and embrace the heritage of the country and the significance of the Maiden’s Cove area.

The crowd held hands and formed a human chain as former Constitutional Court judge, anti-apartheid activist and the patron of the organisation, Albie Sachs, addressed them.

“I’m standing here and hoping to fight for the freedom of the people; freedom to enjoy beauty, freedom to be who we are, freedom to feel free and the freedom to be in touch with nature,” he said.

Mr Sachs, a Clifton resident, said the council didn’t have the right to sell off the land and they would fight them in every way they can.

He urged the crowd to support them morally and speak to their councillors to fight the matter.

He said it was important to preserve the beauty of the area, especially people who cannot afford to go overseas for holidays. “The council wants to sell off this land and build residential homes, retail and restaurant spaces for rich people and we’re saying Maiden’s Cove belongs to the people. In the days of apartheid, only whites could get to access the beautiful sands of Camps Bay and Clifton and the people of colour came here and made Maiden’s Cove their own,” he said.

Mr Sachs went on to say that they wanted to get the whole of Cape Town involved in deciding what could be done with the space to make it better and more accessible for more people. He said there could be improvements in the area but they have to include everybody and not just rich people. “This is a very remarkable space and people love this space. This is a place where people can feel they’re free human beings and get in touch with nature and themselves. You could come here in the middle of winter and you’d find people here even when it’s drizzling and that’s more precious than anything,” he said.

Janey Ball ofMCA, said most people she’d spoken to were not aware of what is being planned for the area.”This place belongs to the heritage of people who, historically were not allowed to come to the beaches in Cape Town except for this area. If we were to allow the development to happen, the accessibility of the space would be removed and everything would be replaced by luxury bungalows,” said Ms Ball.

A protester, Obed Zilwa, who resides in Pinelands, said: “Maiden’s Cove is the place for everyone. It is far away from our homes and the only beauty we have access to and it belongs to the people. The planned development in this area would not be of any benefit for us.”

Sharing these sentiment, fellow protester, Sarah Coert, from Elsies River, said she’s recently learned about the proposed development. “I usually come here during the festive season and when I learnt about the development, I decided to come and be part of this because this is the only free place where we get to braai and unwind. The development will benefit the higher class people, they (the City council) don’t care about us. I don’t know where we are going to go if this goes ahead,” she said.

The development of Maiden’s Cove has been an ongoing issue since 2015 and some political parties have weighed in on the issue. The African Christian Democratic Party’s Grant Haskin said: “We’re fighting the matter for a few reasons which include, a poor traffic plan, the heritage and environment of the area, access to this space and poor water and sewage plan.”

He said people have been coming to this area for years and the proposed development would be a basic exclusive for the rich.

The ANC has declared their support for the court challenge by the MCA (“Maiden’s Cove land sale challenged,” Atlantic Sun, August 30). In a statement released by the provincial secretary, Faiez Jacobs, the party said the City has once again flouted the constitutional imperative of public consultation before embarking on a significant development that would alter people’s lives. “The people have a protected right, even against their own municipality, to give consent to this kind of development. It may well be that when people balance between development and conservation, they may give such a consent but that consent must be sought. We are confident that the courts will be on the side of the people,” read the statement.

When asked for comment on the matter, the City’s mayoral committee member for assets and facilities management, Stuart Diamond, said: “The Bungalow Owners’ Association and others recently filed a review application to set aside the sale of the said City-owned property. This matter is still before the Western Cape High Court, and the City will not comment until the case has been finalised.”