City of Cape Town slammed for removing Palestine flag as council flat deteriorates

The City of Cape Town found itself in hot water after its workers painted over a Palestinian flag mural in Lavender Hill. Picture: screenshot

The City of Cape Town found itself in hot water after its workers painted over a Palestinian flag mural in Lavender Hill. Picture: screenshot

Published Jan 11, 2024


Cap Town - Cape Town residents have criticised the City for turning a blind eye to distasteful gang signs and profanities sprayed onto its properties, as well as dilapidated and dehumanising infrastructure and living conditions, but being quick to remove a mural of a Palestine flag in Lavender Hill, this week.

On Monday, residents at Wicht Court painted the mural on the court’s façade to express their solidarity with the people of Palestine, joining a widespread movement in Cape Town.

On Tuesday, several law enforcement officers were present, and City workers were on site to paint over the mural. In video footage, community members could be seen standing in front of the mural in an attempt to prevent the workers from removing the flag.

Resident Ismail Florence said the decision to place the Palestine mural there was to raise awareness about human rights and humanity, and to educate the children within the community on what was happening in Gaza, Palestine.

“The community was upset but there was no violence,” he said.

Florence said he would be applying for a permit to see the mural restored.

In November, law-enforcement officers confronted artists who had painted a pro-Palestine mural on a privately owned home in Bo-Kaap.

Soon after the altercation, the City Council approved its new Outdoor Advertising By-law on December 7. The by-law was intended to “regulate outdoor advertising and signage”.

GOOD Cape Town caucus chairperson Suzette Little said: “My concern though is that when we raised the issue of this Outdoor Advertising By-law, we mentioned it and we made it very clear, it was to our knowledge at the time, it looked as if it was an anti-Palestine by-law.”

Little said those painting pro-Palestine murals were being targeted.

“When these people are living in harsh conditions, it is pathetic the conditions of these flats. I can show you the number of queries I have logged personally to get the toilets, windows, doors, and ceilings fixed. We just went to Elsies River on Tuesday, the flats are crumbling. The City can’t respond, but for a flag they can get a team of people (to respond).”

The People’s Movement for Change (PMC) demanded the immediate restoration of the mural and criticised the presence of law-enforcement officers for the mural in Lavender Hill.

National Spokesperson Faizal Daniels said: “The removal of the Palestinian mural is not an isolated incident, but part of a disturbing pattern aimed at stifling pro-Palestinian voices advocating against genocide and occupation. It is a clear violation of the fundamental right of freedom of expression.”

Following claims that the City had sanctioned the removal of a large Palestine mural located at Masjidus Sabr in Parkwood, ward councillor Donovan Nelson said no such action was sanctioned by the City.

“Disinformation only contributes to the rising tension and fosters division among people of various ethnicity in our diverse society. We respect the right to freedom of expression, and any murals or graffiti is dealt with in compliance with the provisions set forth by City’s Graffiti By-Law,” he said.

This after a social media did the rounds yesterday, claiming the City had contacted the mosque to request that the two massive murals be removed, as it was a “distasteful distraction for road users on the M5/ Prince George’s Drive”.

Mosque committee member Riedwaan Blake said: “There’s no truth in it. It’s just rumours.”

A Palestine flag can be seen on a mosque in Parkwood on the Cape Flats. Photographer: Leon Lestrade / Independent Newspapers.

Mayco member for Safety and Security JP Smith said a complaint was received and the Graffiti Unit was activated in Lavender Hill.

“Community members responsible for the mural have agreed to apply for permission to have the mural reinstalled following an engagement with Graffiti Unit officials,” Smith said.

“Any person who wishes to erect a mural or any form of graffiti must apply for permission from the City’s Department of Arts and Culture, as outlined in the Graffiti by-law.”

Smith said the City had not had any engagements concerning the mural at Masjidus Sabr.

“We are however aware of comments to the contrary on social media. In recent times, there have been numerous murals that have been installed without due process. The City is duty-bound to respond to complaints from the public about potential by-law transgressions.”

A Palestine flag can be seen on a mosque in Parkwood on the Cape Flats. Photographer: Leon Lestrade / Independent Newspapers.

In a statement, the Palestine Solidarity Campaign (PSC) and African Artists Against Apartheid (AAAA) condemned the removal of the flag in communities “which have experienced the brunt of South Africa’s legacy of apartheid and forced removals”.

“Gang violence and the symbols of gangsterism have been graffitied on the walls of council buildings across these communities for decades. This graffiti has been left untouched by the DA-led City of Cape Town, yet it was so swift to deploy its so-called Graffiti Unit to paint over a Palestinian mural that symbolises liberation and humanity in Lavender Hill.”

PSC and AAAA called on the City to immediately attend to the maintenance of council buildings in Lavender Hill and other communities where “dignified and prompt services have been denied”.

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