District Six Museum feels ‘voiceless’

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IOL ct CPUT DSIX 4989 CAPE TIMES The Cape Peninsula University of Technologys construction of a new residence in the heart of District Six has drawn flak from the District Six Museum. Photo: Jeffrey Abrahams

Cape Town - The District Six Museum fears it is being rendered “voiceless” and wants the Cape Peninsula University of Technology (CPUT) to halt building operations at a historic Hanover Street site containing a memorial cairn while it petitions heritage authorities.

It wants a probe of the status of the site and the cairn and how the university was able to get permission to build there.

It also wants to know CPUT’s future plans for District Six.

This was decided at a meeting on Monday of the museum board and staff and former residents of the area to discuss what needed to be done before they could accept CPUT’s offer to work together in future - put to them at a meeting on Thursday.

The museum says the institution ignored for months its request to meet on the building plans until it staged a demonstration leading to Thursday’s meeting.

District Six Museum director Bonita Bennett said a few key points were discussed on Monday, which reflected the shared view of the group and how they would like to move forward. “The main concern was the sense of being rendered voiceless,” Bennett said.

Before they can embark on a future relationship, working with the CPUT, they feel that CPUT should acknowledge that a violation had occurred.

“Are we incorrect in our assessment that there has been wrongdoing,” she asked.

“Because our questions were never answered.”

Bennett said she had written to CPUT a few months ago, asking it to cease building new campus residences so that a discussion could be had regarding the important heritage and memorial aspects of the site.

“We’re going to reiterate that call,” Bennett said.

She said the building should not be there as it “interferes with the memorial landscape”, adding: “It has no place there.”

Bennett urged CPUT to cease building to show that they were taking the situation seriously and were “really listening” to the museum and residents’ concerns.

Bennett says she realises that the ongoing battle they have with CPUT over the right to build on the land is not a fight against people personally, as most of the paperwork pre-dates those currently involved.

It’s not about individuals involved with any decisions or wrongdoing,” she said.

It was decided that another meeting be convened to attract even more people, groups and organisations, including the university. The meeting has been set for Heritage Day, September 24.

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