Chaos as Bo-Kaap residents block crane

Young and old Bo-Kaap residents blocked a crane from entering their area on Tuesday, November 20.

Property developer Blok has served an interim order against the Bo-Kaap Civic and Ratepayers’ Association (BKCRA) and the Bo-Kaap Neighbourhood Watch, ordering them not to enter Lion Street, where a 12-storey apartment block is to be built.

The interim interdict was served on Monday November 12 on all persons causing obstructions, unlawfully conducting themselves or attempting to cause obstructions, or unlawfully conduct themselves.

This is not the first time Blok has served the community with a court interdict. In July, residents picketed outside the High Court to oppose the court interdict by Blok and air their grievances relating to developments in their area. Blok withdrew its application, stating that they’d engage with the community.

A legal representative for Blok, Lauren Fine from Norton Rose Fulbright law firm, said Blok has on numerous occasions attempted to engage with the community before and since then. “Bo-Kaap Civic Association refused when we offered to facilitate negotiations. Bo-Kaap Youth, however, having conducted full investigations and obtained an opinion from senior counsel in order to satisfy themselves that Blok is building lawfully, agreed to us to simply facilitate negotiations between them and Blok to seek an amicable solution,” she said.

Ms Fine said this resulted in an amicable continuance of construction and numerous concessions being made to meet the community’s concerns. However, she said over the past few months a small group of individuals has unlawfully been interfering with construction deliveries to the Lion Street site.

Ms Fine said the deliveries have been attempted via a safe and quick route that will cause the least inconvenience to residents and businesses in Bo-Kaap. She said community stakeholders have been provided notice well ahead of the deliveries and written proof confirming that the construction under way, as well as the delivery attempts, have been in accordance with the law.

“A small self-interested group is now, unfortunately, undermining the progress and agreements made with the community through their unlawful interference and have even attacked delivery vehicles, damaging property and putting people’s lives at risk in the process,” she said.

Ms Fine said attempts to positively engage the group had been met with contempt and as such law enforcement had advised Blok to approach the courts in order to ensure safe deliveries to the site.

BKCRA expressed shock at the move. Jacky Poking, secretary of BKCRA, said they were shocked that Blok had chosen to again interdict the community, four months after they withdrew their initial interdict application.

“At the time, the civic recognised that Blok’s withdrawal was in good faith with the aim of engaging with the community. However, to date, Blok has not engaged with any of the legitimate leadership structures,” she said.

Ms Poking said they were currently studying the content of the more than 205-page interim interdict and would keep the community informed of further legal developments “We call on the community to stand united as we continue to fight for the preservation of our culture and heritage and resist gentrification in our beloved Bo-Kaap.”

The matter is set down to be heard on Thursday December 6 at the Western Cape High Court.

On Tuesday morning, November 20, Bo-Kaap residents gathered at the corner of Buitegrancht and Bloem streets to voice their grievances over the development in Lion Street. Chaos erupted as the residents blocked the crane that tried to enter the area.

Traffic was at standstill and police, law enforcement and private security companies were present. ”We’ve said we’re against this development and they are building on the piece of ground that is contested by the community. They failed to follow the public participation they were supposed to.

“We will do everything we can to stop them, even if it means to stop their cranes from entering our area,” said resident Noor Osman.

Another resident, Zaheeda Sekhaat, expressed anger over the presence of particularly, a private security company. “They’re trying to intimidate us while we’re protesting peacefully. This is raw aggression. What is the message this company is sending to the people of Bo-Kaap? It’s absolutely evil,” she said.

The crane left the area only to come back around lunchtime. By then more police and law enforcement were on the scene.

Four residents were apprehended.

Cape Town police spokesperson, Captain Ezra October, said they were waiting for their Public Order Police Unit to bring the residents in to see if they were to be charged.