Occupiers on old circus school land cry foul over City of Cape Town’s conduct

Occupiers allege that the City ignored a court instruction to hold meaningful engagements with them. Picture: Supplied

NEWS | By Marvin Charles | Time of article published Sep 22, 2020

Cape Town – A group of people illegally staying at the former SA National Circus School next to Hartleyvale Stadium in Observatory are livid after the City allegedly ignored a court instruction to hold meaningful engagements with them.

They said they have tried to engage with the City, to no avail. The City denied the allegation.

Resident Moyo Uno said: “For months, the residents have been attempting to engage meaningfully with City officials. At every turn, City representatives tried to dodge their constitutional responsibility to engage us. Instead, they want to bring in corporate lawyers to ‘mediate’ between our lawyer and the City’s legal team.”

Uno said the City was afraid of finding common ground. “Like many officials in the City government, we believe it is important to protect the cultural heritage of Observatory.

“We also believe that this land must be protected in the name of a sustainable model of food sovereignty, grass-roots development and eco-living.

“But some City politicians seem to be afraid that we have a positive, productive proposal for the land, whereas the City has no plans at all.”

The group was back in court last week in an ongoing court bid brought by the City to have them removed.

Since 2018, they have been served with eviction notices from the City, which wants to use the land for sport and recreational activities.

Mayco member for community and health services Zahid Badroodien said: “We have attempted to engage with the residents. We proposed a mediator to have a fair and balanced process, this was rejected. A meeting with me is not recommended on top of the court process.”

The school’s founder, Dimitri Slaverse, allegedly started to illegally sub-let the property, which belongs to the City, in 2016.

Court documents said the property has been earmarked for sport and recreational activities as part of the Hartleyvale sporting precinct.

Previously, some residents had lived in a large circus tent at the site, which was taken down. In August last year, the City said once residents were evicted, the building that housed the school would be demolished.

Badroodien said the land is next to the Liesbeeck River – in a floodplain – and thus not suitable for residential purposes. The extension of the sports facility “is hindered by the repeated refusal of the occupiers of the derelict clubhouse to take up alternative forms of accommodation offered to them”.

Cape Argus