Cape Town – A group of women from Bonteheuwel are fighting to save a plot of land which they’ve transformed into a community garden. The land, previously a dumping ground, is now being auctioned off by the City of Cape Town.
It is one of two “peace gardens” planted by activist group the Bonteheuwel Walking Ladies. The garden earmarked for auctioning is on Camellia street, next to Bergsig Primary School. The other garden is around the corner on David Profit Street.
The women sent an open letter to the City requesting the land either be handed over to the community or sold to the Anglican Church around the corner from the garden. The church has been trying to purchase the land since 1994, without success.
“The land had been a dump for many, many years and just months after the community turned it into a place of safety, it is being sold. I’m sure you can understand how extremely hurt and disappointed the community feels by this unfortunate turn of events,” the letter read.
Soraya Salie, founder of the Bonteheuwel Walking Ladies, says the residents were not notified about the sale of the land and so couldn’t object to it being auctioned. The community only became aware when an auction sign appeared outside the garden indicating that the sale would take place on Tuesday, 17 September at the Hellenic Club in Mouille Point.
“When we spoke to the councillor, he said there was an advertisement in Die Burger about the auction. We don’t read Die Burger.”
When asked whether the community had been consulted, Ward Councillor Angus McKenzie said there was a “complete public participation process” but “no objections were received”.
He refuted claims by residents that the land was being auctioned because it had been turned into a garden and went on to suggest that community members could put in a bid for the land.
“I would strongly encourage all individuals to participate in this process.”
The women attended the auction in Mouille Point with the intent to picket. After being told that they couldn’t demonstrate on private property, they entered to observe the proceedings.
A few minutes after the auction began, it was disrupted by members of Reclaim the City. But this was after the Bonteheuwel plot had been sold for R100,000.
The auction was discontinued, and promises were made that another plot in Woodstock where an 80-year-old man was recently evicted, would be taken off the auction list. It was unclear, however, whether the Bonteheuwel plot would still be sold to the bidder.
When asked about the sale, ClareMart General Executive Director Andrew Koch said it was likely that the City would decline the sale following the disruption. “Many opportunities for many communities across the Western Cape, as well as private people, were lost today due to the auction being disrupted,” he said in an email. “Those with issues relating to the council’s decision regarding property sales should take that up with the City who have proper processes … for this very purpose.”
Muneeba Edwards, a Belgravia resident who came to support the Bonteheuwel Walking Ladies, said the sale of the land was “heartbreaking”.
“Something that was considered garbage by other people has been turned into something beautiful, and now they want to take it away,” she said.
Salie described the Bonteheuwel Walking Ladies as a platform for mothers and grandmothers to talk about Gender-Based Violence and improve their community.