By Fouzia Van Der Fort
All but five of the city's popular minstrel groups have been barred from marching up to the Bo-Kaap in the annual Tweede Nuwe Jaar (January 2) parade through the streets of Cape Town, resulting in high drama between the umbrella body representing several of the troupes and the City of Cape Town.
The city granted permission only to resident troops of the Bo-Kaap to march beyond Bree Street and return home dancing with their bands.
Usually, close to 100 troupes walk through the area. Now however, they must disperse metres away from the boundary roads of the residential area.
An upset Kevin Momberg, director of administration for the Kaapse Klopse Association, said the city had taken "a unilateral decision to curtail our celebrations".
The association has more than 60 affiliate groups of about 300 members each.
"They are now controlling our carnival.
"We must just pitch up to do our act like we are in the circus, get out of town as soon as we can, and the city is the ringmaster," he said.
Momberg said they would not disappoint the thousands of spectators expected to line the city's streets on January 2, and were not happy about the "raw deal" the city had given them.
"We have to obey their rules. We will be there, but very reluctantly," he said.
The Cape Town minstrel tradition is more than 200 years old, and Tweede Nuwe Jaar marks the only day in the year that slaves had off from work in the '0s.
This weekend, 65 000 spectators are expected to turn up to support the more than 100 minstrel troupes, totalling 45 000 participants.
Troupes have traditionally marched to the top of Wale Street, then to the Green Point Stadium kicking off a month-long competition to recognise the most flamboyant performance, and best-dressed troupe, singer and band.
This is the second year that troupes have been barred from celebrating in the Bo-Kaap.
Chris O'Connor, acting director of the City's department of social development, said they had followed the advice of a co-ordinating events team that included the police, disaster risk management and emergency services.
The team had established that Buitengracht, a main arterial road running across Wale Street, should be kept open to ensure the free flow of traffic and allow access for emergency vehicles.
He said congestion caused by minstrel groups and pedestrians had hampered traffic for several years. The road had to be kept open for emergency vehicles from Christiaan Barnard Memorial Hospital.
O'Connor said that previously emergency services had battled to reach injured or sick people in the Bo-Kaap.
"It is our responsibility to ensure that the event is safe and secure, and we have taken advice from our events services team to consider the safest route," he said.
The ban had also been prompted by complaints from Bo-Kaap residents of disruptions and noise, often until dawn the next day.
There were also complaints about people urinating in the streets.
Last week, the Cape High Court dismissed the KKA's application against the City of Cape Town to be allowed to use the Athlone Stadium for the competition.
O'Connor said the association had applied to the city months ago for the use of the stadium, and had been timeously refused.
They were now waiting for the KKA to decide whether to accept their offer of the use of the Turfhall Stadium, also in Athlone.
The city has promised to provide toilets, fencing, security and medical services along the parade route on Saturday.
All choir groups will strike up their bands in District Six, proceed along Darling Street, left into Adderley Street, up Wale Street and end at Bree Street, where they will board buses to leave the city.
The choirs will complete their procession at 5am on Saturday, to allow municipal cleaning services time to clear the area in preparation for the minstrels march.
The minstrels procession is due to start at about 11am at Keizersgracht on Saturday.