Shack protesters butt heads with police

The battle against gentrification and the lack of affordable housing in the Bo-Kaap continued last week when, on Wednesday July 11, Bo-Kaap residents erected shacks along Voetboog Road. But chaos erupted as the City’s Anti-Land Invasion Unit demolished the shacks.

Bo-Kaap resident, Taufiq Samaai, said the developers and the City were the root of the problems facing the area. Mr Samaai said the developers were standing in the way of people getting affordable housing in Bo-Kaap.

“Because of these developers, we will see our rents and everything increasing in our area and will eventually be forced to leave,” he said.

Bo-Kaap residents said the City’s law enforcement officers became violent during last week’s encounter. Residents said they were upset and concerned that if they did not protest against gentrification, they would remain on the housing waiting list forever.

The City’s mayoral committee member for informal settlements; water and waste services; and energy, Xanthea Limberg, said the residents had become aggressive towards the officers during the operation. “The City can confirm that the Anti Land Invasion Unit (ALIU) conducted an operation in Bo-Kaap on Wednesday July 11 and removed the illegally erected vacant structures.

“The community became hostile towards the ALIU staff and contractor during the operation, and the officials therefore had to make use of pepper spray in their defence. The City then immediately reported the matter to SAPS,” she said.

The chairperson of the Bo-Kaap Civic and Ratepayers’ Association (BKCRA), Osman Shaboodien, said the protest in the area had been staged to highlight the need for sustainable housing to address overcrowding in the Bo-Kaap. He said they were currently in the process of setting up a meeting with City officials to assess the situation and determine how to implement a working plan for affordable housing in Bo-Kaap.

On Sunday July 15, residents of Bo-Kaap started to rebuild their shacks along the Voetboeg Road.

The founder of Bo-Kaap Disadvantaged Community movement, Shahied Robain, said he would rather die there than move out of the area. “The City can come back here and destroy our homes but we’ll rebuild until they provide housing for us,” said Mr Robain. “We’ve been evicted three times already by the City and we’ll continue to rebuild. We started this movement with people living here so that the local, provincial and national government can take note of us. We had to start something.”

He added that they supported the Bo-Kaap community, the BKCRA, and Bo-Kaap Youth in their fight against the gentrification of the area.

Mr Robain said that the movement had met with the BKCRA and ward councillor, Brandon Golding, two weeks before and they had promised to get back to them. A follow-up meetiing had been scheduled to take place on Tuesday July 17.