Mass boeka held to protest gentrification

Residents enjoy food at the mass boeka and protest.

Bo-Kaap residents have reacted with anger to accusations by the City’s mayoral committee member for safety and security; and social services, JP Smith, that “sinister forces” were behind the recent protests in Cape Town.

Residents were also angry about Mr Smith’s claims that he had viewed CCTV footage and held meetings with the residents of the area who confirmed that the people behind the Bo-Kaap protests did not live in the area.

In response, Bo-Kaap residents invited Mr Smith to share with them the footage he claims to have seen and to confirm whom he had these meetings with.

Youth movement Bo-Kaap Rise (BKR) said they were tired of watching how their area was being taken advantage of and disrespected. They said the ongoing battle against inappropriate development and sheer frustration at the situation had led to recent protest action – and that no “outsiders” had been involved.

“Now more and more I bear witness to how the beautiful heritage and spirit of Bo-Kaap are being bulldozed, while our grievances continue to fall on deaf ears,” said the group’s spokesperson,
Shakirah Dramat.

“What further disturbs me is that every time residents stand up against these injustices, the City labels us in some or other way.” Among the issues raised by Bo-Kaap Rise was the ongoing developments in the Bo-Kaap which was being “invaded with oversized insensitive development” on both the city edges and from the inside out.

They also accused the City of stalling the approval of the community- ratified Bo-Kaap Heritage Protection Overlay Zone (HPOZ) for more than two years. They said residents believe this delay is deliberate to make it easy for developers to get uncontested development approvals.

While refuting the claims that he had referred to protesters as gangsters, Mr Smith admitted that he had indicated that people in the Bo-Kaap who were in communication with the City had said that many of the protesters were residents in the Bo-Kaap, but some instigators who kept their identities hidden with masks and scarves, were not.

He added that one of the City’s sources, from the Bo-Kaap community, had suggested that some of the instigators had a gang affiliation. “Community members indicated that, while residents who participated in protests walked back into the Bo-Kaap after the protests, these instigators can be seen in the video footage getting into vehicles departing from the community.

“As this footage will be part of criminal investigations, it cannot be shared with the public or media,” he said.

He went on to say that the City invited BKR to identify the protesters who had concealed their faces during violent and illegal protests during which municipal infrastructure had been damaged.

He said the City had been engaging the Bo-Kaap community through their ward councillor and sub-council chair and would continue to address all legitimate service delivery issues, as they had been for some time.

When the Bo-Kaap community held another boeka protest to voice their grievances with the City on Friday June 1, the issue of gentrification was, once again at the centre of discussion. Community leaders from areas such as Salt River and members of other civic organisations attended the meeting to show solidarity with the community.

Among them was the chairperson of the Palestinian Museum, Dr Anwah Nagia, who pledged support for the community and called for the youth to stand firm in their action whether it was peaceful or not. “Bo-Kaap (contributed) to the liberation of our country. This is not a consumerism thing, this is not a spectacle for tourism to come and see how we live in the Bo-Kaap,” said Dr Nagia.

At the mass boeka, ward councillor Brandon Golding reported back on the memorandum of demands which had been handed to him on Wednesday May 23 (“Bo-Kaap vows to continue to protest”, Atlantic Sun, May 31).

He said he had told the City that he needed a proper response on the issues facing the Bo-Kaap and that he believes the whole of Bo-Kaap is being declared a provincial heritage site.

However, he said, they were still waiting for the provincial government to declare Bo-Kaap as the national heritage site.

On the issue of proposed tariff hikes proposed by the City, Mr Golding said the anger had been justified when the draft budget was released but that the City had worked hard to reduce the tariffs as best as they could.

One resident shouted: “We were hoping Mr Golding would tell us that all the developments in the area have been stopped.”

The chairperson for the Bo-Kaap Civic and Ratepayers Association, Osman Shaboodien, said they were not satisfied with the feedback and while they understood that some demands took longer to meet than others, they were hoping to resolve the short-term ones for now.