Badih Chaaban and the 'battle of Greenmarket Square'

Controversial Cape Town councillor Badih Chaaban is adamant he will not relinquish control over Greenmarket Square without a fight. According to a recent report in the Weekender, Chaaban has held a lease on Greenmarket Square for 15 years.

The Cape Town council took a decision at the end of June to terminate Chaaban’s lease and regain control over the square.

 

Chaaban told a media briefing on Thursday that his advocates and attorneys were working “round the clock to use all legal methods to stave off the city’s unjust war on Badih Chaaban and the ... poor families that benefit out of trading on Greenmarket Square”.

 

“We will not tolerate and allow the city to prescribe, dictate or use force ...
we do not live in a banana republic and the judiciary is completely independent,” he said.

 

He was adopting a wait-and-see attitude, but his attorneys were on standby for December 1 when the council planned to enforce the decision taken at the end of June to terminate hiss lease and regain control over the square.

 

“We adopted the attitude of we’re there and it’s business as usual. If you have a problem with us please approach the court and eject us.

 

“Whatever you do, we will have a reply, but we would like the city to make the first move.

 

“We elected not to tackle them. We chose for them to tackle us. It’s purely a legal strategy. Nothing else should be read into it.”

 

Chaaban claimed the moves to oust him from the square were politically motivated because of his opposition to mayor Helen Zille.

 

During meetings with senior council officials earlier this year, “it came out ... that I was the right candidate to run Greenmarket Square, by everybody’s research and admission”.

 

However, this changed within weeks after “I upset madam Zille by her discovering I was endeavouring in a fairly regular political exercise” to topple her coalition city government.

 

“Well I’ve got news for her. Fighting runs through my blood. And a fight she will have.

 

“[But] the battle of Greenmarket Square will be fought in the courts, not by violence,” Chaaban said.

 

There are about 250 traders on Greenmarket Square, with 144 operating on the lower end of the square run by Chaaban.

 

In a statement later, the council said a city task team met on Thursday morning to finalise logistical planning to ensure a smooth transition on Saturday.

 

The intention was to restore the square to its former glory and make it a prime tourist attraction for 2010—when it would be 300 years old.

 

Mansoor Mohamed, executive director of economic, social development and tourism, said: “I visited the square and spoke to the traders. They are quietly optimistic about the city resuming control and believe that our involvement will enable them to achieve their full economic potential.

 

“Traders are collecting their permits and we are confident that all the entitled traders will be permitted and trading by Saturday,” Mohammed said.

 

To ensure a trouble-free transition to the new informal trading permit system on December 1, members of the metro police services would be on standby at the square.

 

Traders should rest assured that the city would not allow a situation to prevail that resulted in traders being prevented from collecting their permits or being exploited over rent issues.

 

The collection or demand of “rent” from a trader by any party other than the city would be illegal from December 1 and would not be tolerated.

 

All traders should have their permits available and ready for inspection on December 1 and thereafter, as the principle of “no permit, no trade” would apply and would be enforced by the metro police.—Sapa

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