Recalcitrant City: Cape Town, permission, procrastination and smokescreens

Graham Dominy – August 2021

There is an American saying, “You can’t fight City Hall and win!” There is also an ancient legend of a pipe-smoking pirate named Jan Van Hunks who challenged a sinister stranger to a pipe smoking competition on the slopes of Table Mountain. They smoked for days until the stranger gave in and Van Hunks was still puffin g. At this point Van Hunks saw the cloven hooves and realised that his competitor was none other than the Devil himself. The angry devil incinerated Van Hunks and they both disappeared but left their smoke. Thus, the mythical origins of Devil’s Peak and the tablecloth that appears over Table Mountain when the south-easter blows.

In the 21st century much of the murk blowing around Cape Town is generated by city bureaucracy .he battles that communities and heritage specialists have fought against the City of Cape Town and developers have been well covered in the past: the BoKaap and Green Point Common being but two cases in the point. The current battle royal over the Two Rivers Park Development is also an excellent example of what happens under The Tablecloth. The case I am highlighting is the story of one little person versus an indifferent and collusive municipal offialdom. The “little person” involved is Nod Murphy, a long-term resident of Duke Street in the historic and colourful suburb of Observatory. In the interests of full disclosure, she is also my sister-in-law…