What kind of city are we building and whose interests are being served?
THE District Six committee’s court victory and the violence relating to Bo Kaap protests are indicators of three key things that aren’t working in the urban development sector at the moment.
Firstly, the City of Cape Town is the custodian of all developments in the city. It ultimately grants all rights for development, which in turn shape the future development of neighbourhoods through zoning schemes.
Given the current legislative frameworks, why is the state responding with violence? Why is the City not mediating and taking responsibility for its role in granting development rights? While governance and administration cannot influence interdicts, they can foster a dialogue through councillors and administrators.
The need for engagement cannot be replaced by policing and the use of force.
The fact that law enforcement agents introduced brutal force against residents cannot be condoned. It is unacceptable.
Secondly, this might sound like a broken record, but the relationship between the City of Cape Town and civics has been completely fractured.
In Bo Kaap, this is not the first litigation or resistance, which clearly highlights that the City of Cape Town has failed to address the growing concerns the community has about larger scale exclusionary developments which are escalating property prices and eroding the rich socio-cultural heritage of the neighbourhood.
The City is not taking responsibility, as it has done in many other inner-city neighbourhoods, by simply letting the market dictate.
Lastly, this fracture between state and citizen is leading civics towards litigation.
Over the last year, Bo Kaap is one of eight civics that are currently considering taking the City to court.
One needs to understand that civics with limited resources only use litigation and protests as a last resort. A court judgment will only be of use if the administration is ready to abide by it both in spirit and action.
This raises key questions about what sort of city we are building. Will the City of Cape Town, and all other spheres of government demonstrate new ways of engaging with regards to urban development?
Given the legislative environment, are the civics prepared to engage or will civics be forced to use litigation for every development process?
Looking forward, this discontent about current development patterns will only encourage more solidarity in civil society and build stronger coalitions of civics.
The civic coalition response to better governance and administration will be unprecedented and far-reaching.
Bo Kaap residents protest developments that put their spatial heritage at risk.