/ 21 November 2018

Protesting Bo-Kaap residents claim small victory as crane leaves, charges dropped

(David Harrison/M&G)
(David Harrison/M&G)

Bo-Kaap residents cheered and waved as a crane belonging to construction company Blok left the neighbourhood on Wednesday.

READ MORE: The people of Bo-Kaap versus the private developers

A handful of elderly people waited peacefully for hours for the removal of the crane — a far cry from the violent events that took place on Tuesday when the efforts of residents to block the crane’s progress led to the arrest of five people.

“Allah has granted us a short victory. Our fight is going to continue,” Bo-Kaap Collective leader Shafwaan Loubscher said.

“Our fight is not going to stop here, we will continue with our fight for the liberation of Bo-Kaap. Our fight against anti-gentrification will continue.”

On Tuesday, the crane was escorted by police to the Blok construction site on 40 Lion Street against the wishes of the community.

Despite their efforts to block the transportation of the crane, it reached its destination and a violent altercation led to the arrest of five people.

READ MORE: Bo-Kaap residents lose bid to stop development

MJC shocked by ‘police brutality’

Those charges have now been dropped.

“All the charges were withdrawn. They were charged with contravening the Road Traffic Act and contravention of the interim interdict obtained by Blok,” lawyer Seehaam Samaai said.

“The charges were withdrawn because they were difficult to prove.”

The Muslim Judicial Society (MJC) expressed its shock at “the blatant display of police brutality toward the elderly residents of Bo-Kaap”.

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

“The brutality of the police and the private security company must be investigated and those found to use excessive force must be harshly disciplined.”

The MJC acknowledged the community’s pleas for the neighbourhood to be declared a heritage site.

“Years of pleas to declare Bo-Kaap a heritage site have fallen on deaf ears,” their statement read.

“It is for this reason that the residents have decided to peacefully protest – a right enshrined in the Bill of Rights – against gentrification in the area.”

Blok managing director Jacques van Embden does not take calls from the media and his office referred News24 to the company’s legal representatives.

Blok’s lawyer Lauren Fine at law firm Norton Rose Fulbright has not responded to any attempts by media to obtain comment since Tuesday. — News24