The Bo-Kaap is known for being one of the most colourful places in Cape Town, if not the entire world.
But right now it’s looking a bit bleak, as its residents are engaged in protest action.
According to a report by Mail & Guardian, a group of young men – known as the Bo-Kaap Youth Movement – have been burning tyres every evening at 5PM in order to block off Wale Street.
Why Wale Street? That’s because it leads directly into Bo-Kaap.
These protests have been ongoing on for three weeks, and the reasons are simple: residents are trying to draw “attention to gentrification and its negative impact on the community which resides there”.
So far, it has led to the arrest of a 17-year-old boy who’s being charged with public violence, and protesters aren’t pleased:
The boy, whose identity remains hidden because he is a minor, was rolling two tyres down Wale Street in preparation for the protest when two officers apprehended him and placed him in a police van. They then drove him to Cape Town central police station near Bo-Kaap.
“We told the police to take an adult, we were 30 people there and they chose to take the youngest. They didn’t want to take an adult,” said a protester who witnessed the arrest, and offered himself to the police in exchange for the young man.
Bo-Kaap residents reckon the police used “intimidation tactics”, and judging from the info provided by Seehaam Saamai, a lawyer with the Women’s Legal Centre’s who’s representing the boy, the po-po’s behaviour doesn’t look good right now:
[Samaai] said the reason for the arrest according to police, was that a street camera operated by the City of Cape Town captured footage of a boy carrying two petrol bombs on Tuesday. The camera, known as part of the “Cyclops” operation, is run by the metro police. When suspicious activity is picked up on camera, SAPS is notified.
When the boy’s lawyers asked to see the footage, the police were not forthcoming, Samaai explained. The police were also unclear if the boy they arrested is the same one in the video, she added.
Not to mention the boy wasn’t actually found with petrol on his person.
Damn, SAPS, talk about burying yourself here.
Protesters also believe that the police breached the boy’s rights by not contacting his parents before he was taken to a police station, as the law requires. His mother only found out once he was already taken into custody:
I was in the bus on my way home from work when my sister called me. She told me they took him and I mustn’t stress. I was already [in disbelief]. I just thought he’s not that type of child and I’m not that type of mother.
When [the protesters] were having meetings, I told [my son] you can go look but don’t participate. If they told you to participate and they are going to stand by you, then no problem. I know it is for the youth for the future when we can’t be there. But now, unfortunately, out of the whole lot it was my son and nobody was there.
I was devastated because I didn’t have any direction on where to find him and what to do. Nobody told me what was happening.
Shame. It really must be difficult for her, as well as the residents who are forced to turn to alternate, albeit sometimes dangerous, methods, if it means getting people to sit up and take notice of the issues they’re dealing with.
Luckily her son – who appeared in court on Wednesday morning where he was assessed in a preliminary inquiry – remains in the custody of his parents.
His case has been postponed until July 17 when lawyers for the accused hope the charges will be dropped.
But for now, don’t expect Bo-Kaap residents to back down.
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