The City’s land invasion unit demolished 11 shacks in the Bo-Kaap yesterday, leaving about 20 children without a roof over their heads. Picture: David Ritchie/African News Agency/ANA
Chaos erupted in the historic Bo-Kaap when the City’s anti-land invasion unit demolished shacks erected by residents protesting against ongoing gentrification in the area.

The scenes played out despite the City assuring residents it would adjust spatial plans and deal with the Heritage Protection Overlay Zone for the Bo-Kaap.

Mayco member for informal settlements Xanthea Limberg alleged her officials used pepper spray “in their defence” because residents had become hostile.

But the residents said the officials were the hostile ones, who even dragged sleeping people out of their shacks.

“The City can confirm that the anti-land invasion unit (ALIU) conducted an operation in Bo-Kaap on Wednesday, 11 July, 2018 and removed the illegally erected vacant structures.

“The community became hostile towards the ALIU staff and contractor during the operation, and the officials therefore had to make use of pepper spray in their defence. The City then immediately reported the matter to SAPS,” Limberg said

The area, where slaves had settled under colonialism, has been a hotbed of contention lately, with the court recently ordering the SA Human Rights Commission to facilitate talks between developers and disgruntled Bo-Kaap residents regarding concerns over construction in the area.

Residents say they want the area declared a national heritage site to put a stop to the commercial selling of land.

They also want vacant land to be used to address the housing issue, instead of being sold to developers.

Some residents, about two weeks ago, erected shacks along Voetboog Road as a form of protest against the lack of housing.

Resident Bahia Isaacs said she had seen the City’s anti-land invasion unit coming up Wale Street on the slopes of Signal Hill overlooking the city centre and when they arrived, they treated the residents like animals.

“There are children here and they must witness this treatment. I promise you no one has ever spoken to me like that. They came here with tear gas while we are peaceful,” Isaacs said.

Once the City tore down the shacks, they took the building materials with them, leaving the residents completely stranded. A total of 11 shacks were demolished, leaving about 20 children without a roof over their heads last night.

Resident Masturah Adams, who has been running a soup kitchen in the area for the past 16 years, said those who erected the shacks were members of the community, and that those living in formal houses did not have an issue with their form of protest.

Shahied Robain, 44, who was born and grew up in the area, said he called ward councillor Brendon Golding, who rejected his call during the demolition. Robain said he wants the City to visit them to hear their plight.

Golding told the Cape Times he eventually did speak with Robain. “Those erecting shacks will be dealt with like any land invasion. The City will remove any structure because if they don’t, it becomes an informal settlement,” Golding said.

Golding said he has been in contact with associations, and that he hasn’t visited those along Voetboog Road recently because he just got back from leave.

Meanwhile, Mayco member for urban development Brett Herron, commenting on the heritage status, said officials initiated steps to begin updates of the district plans.

“A report is being prepared for submission to the city council that will outline the process, including the proposed time frames, for updating the district plans,” Herron said.

Earlier this week, Herron said he was engaging the proposed Heritage Protection Overlay Zone for Bo-Kaap and would provide a way forward within the next few weeks.

“I can assure the Bo-Kaap residents that the heritage resources within the Bo-Kaap area are valued and their concerns are not being ignored.

‘‘As indicated, buildings, artefacts and other structures older than 60 years are already protected and cannot be altered or demolished without permission from Heritage Western Cape,” Herron said.

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