Youth group under fire

Bo-Kaap residents at a community meeting on Tuesday November 20.

At a packed meeting held at Boorhanol Hall last Tuesday night, Bo-Kaap residents slammed the Bo-Kaap Youth Movement (BKYM) for acting without the community’s mandate when it signed an agreement with real estate development company Blok.

The meeting followed a week of protests and clashes with the police against developments in the area and top of the agenda was that the BKYM had acted as the representative of the community and held engagements with the developer, Blok, without the community’s approval.

BKYM describes itself as a non-profit company (NPC) that aims to assist, uplift and better the youth of Bo-Kaap

It was heard that while the community had been trying to block the development on Lion Street, BKYM had worked with Blok to ensure that the development on Lion Street went ahead.

Documents showed that the BKYM had signed an agreement with the developer to ensure cranes were delivered to the construction site.

ANC councillor, Xolani Sotashe, who was a guest speaker at the meeting, called on the community to unite, fight and speak with one voice against gentrification in Bo-Kaap.

“If the community of Bo-Kaap is not united and speaking in one voice, gentrification will be realised and people will be forced out of this area,’’ he said.

Mr Sotashe said the situation in the city was at a point that required communities to close ranks. He said the situation in Bo-Kaap affected not only residents but also needed the attention of neighbouring communities and Cape Town as a whole.

He said: “We’ve seen the protest today and the clashes with the police and it was quite disturbing. We’re going to raise the issue with the minister of police because it can’t be 2018 and police are still treating people as if they’re the police of apartheid,” he said.

Speaking of the agreement between BKYM and Blok, human rights lawyer and Bo-Kaap resident, Seehaam Samaai, said in October BKYM had also sent a letter to Norton Rose Fulbright, the law firm representing Blok, stating that everything was lawful where the Blok development was concerned.

“I’m a lawyer and I can tell you now, lawful doesn’t always mean justice for our people and we need to understand that,” she said.

Ms Samaai said the letter confirmed that the cranes could move in to Bo-Kaap.

“I’m exceptionally emotional because they had no respect for our elders. We asked them on what basis did they sign this agreement, on what basis did they do this on behalf of the community when they didn’t even consult the residents. We asked them to come clean and they never did,” she said.

She lambasted the BKYM for breaking with the community and being arrogant about it. “(If) you have a problem with the civic, take the matter to the civic. Don’t go behind people’s backs. Do not victimise yourself at the expense of this community. Once there are two or three structures representing the community, we’re done,” she said.

The meeting resolved that Bo-Kaap Civic and Ratepayers’ Association was the official representative of the Bo-Kaap.

In a statement released by BKYM, the youth movement said they had successfully engaged with property developers behind the construction of residential developments and had agreed to various concessions in the interest of the community.

Chairperson, Adnaan Oesman, said: “Bo-Kaap Youth Movement remains committed to finding peaceful, positive solutions that generate opportunities for our community and safeguard their future.”

Atlantic Sun sent a list of questions to BKYM, among them whether they had engaged with the community before making an agreement with Blok, but by the time this edition went to print, the questions remained unanswered.

When Norton Rose Fulbright was asked to weigh in on the situation, legal representative Lauren Fine accused residents of “undermining” progress made thus far.

“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.

Meanwhile, the Muslim Judicial Council (SA) expressed shock at the police brutality toward the elderly residents of Bo-Kaap on Tuesday (“Chaos as residents block crane”, Atlantic Sun, November 22).

“The way the police and a private security company manhandled our elderly mothers and fathers in the community is appalling,” said MJC secretary-general, Shaykh Isgaak Taliep.

He said the brutality of the police and the private security company must be investigated and those found to have used excessive force must be harshly disciplined.