SAHRC in Bo-Kaap fray

COMMISSIONER: Dr Chris Nissen

The SA Human Rights Commission(SAHRC)said they would be investigating human rights violations faced by residents of the Bo-Kaap.

Western Cape SAHRC commissioners, Chris Nissen and Andre Gaum, conducted a walkabout in the area last Wednesday, July 25, after the community reported human rights violations linked to developments and gentrification in June.

Mr Nissen said the SAHRC did the walk on its own accord.

They engaged with the residents and observed different development sites in the Bo-Kaap.

“We felt it was important to visit the historical Bo-Kaap and get to understand the issues that the residents are facing,” said Mr Nissen.

He said the issue of gentrification in the Bo-Kaap was unfair and was likely to result in rates hikes, which affected pensioners and the poor.

Mr Nissen said residents had the right to dignity, the right to live freely in a decent manner, the right to voice the issues facing them and the right to consultation when it came to development in the area.

“As the SAHRC, we’re not stopping the developers, but we need them to consult and engage with the residents,” said Mr Nissen.

Bo-Kaap resident and imam at the Leeuwen Street mosque, Dawood Terblanche, said it was important for the SAHRC to visit Bo-Kaap because they were a legal entity and had the interests of different communities at heart.

Mr Terblanche said the commissioners could be made aware of the issues faced by residents.

“The noise level is a concern for residents living close to the construction sites, the inconvenience, after hours construction, and the fact that the developers are ignoring the by-laws,” said Mr Terblanche.

He said the developers have failed the community and have not taken into consideration the rights of residents.

Mr Terblanche said another concern in the Bo-Kaap was that there was no plan for affordable housing in the community.

He said developers and residents had different ideas about affordable housing. He said the developers had their own notion of what a community should be like.

“Bo-Kaap is contributing to the GDP of the Western Cape. Tourists come into this area and they are fascinated by Bo-Kaap, so we feel there needs to be a negotiation between the City and the community. We are being driven out from our own homes because of high rates,” he said.

In June the Western Cape High Court ordered the commission to facilitate talks between developers and Bo-Kaap residents over protests in the area.

A SAHRC report containing findings and conclusions will be handed to the court.