City remains tight-lipped over old circus plans

This is the building the tenants are currently living in at the old circus grounds.

The Willow Arts Circus Collective (WACC) wants the City of Cape Town to reconsider their eviction from the old circus grounds in Observatory.

The group, along with supporters, marched to the Civic Centre on First Thursday last week in a bid for the City to hear their calls.

The group had planned to “disrupt” First Thursdays but were not allowed entry into any of the venues and the group of about 100 instead held placards outside the City’ offices.

The group’s Moyo Chimboza, who has been living on the premises for the past three years, says the City should give them an opportunity to turn the land into an ecological farming and arts hub.

The group has started work on this eco-village and currently grow basic kitchen vegetables such as maize, carrots, spinach, cabbage, peppers, as well as indigenous plants such as spekboom, pelargonium, jasminum multipartitum, and buchu.

Mr Chimboza said he did not understand why the City wanted to remove them from the property, forcing them to be homeless, when the City was yet to announce any plans for the land.

“At 2 Willow Road, we hope for and are trying to build an eco-village. We are already working with the community to expand our vegetable garden and plan to make our space an open studio for creatives.”

He said the City was exacerbating the issue of homelessness with these evictions and were now the ones doing the evicting instead of providing homes.

The Tatler previously reported on issues at the old circus site after the City ended its contract with the circus. Residents later pushed the City to remove the old circus tent which was still up, as it was deemed a health hazard. The issue of the tent was resolved in June last year when a storm toppled the tent (“Storm topples circus tent,” Southern Suburbs Tatler, June 27 2019).

At the time, the Observatory Civic Association also called for transparency from the City regarding its plans for the land, which the City was unable to give (“Future of circus plot unclear,” Southern Suburbs Tatler, June 20). At the time, former chairman Tauriq Jenkins said their main concern was the human rights aspect of the circus.

Mr Chimboza said they would be left without a roof over their heads if the City went ahead with the eviction, as none of them could afford to rent a room in the Observatory / Salt River area today, as prices had gone up substantially.

“The rooms are going for about R5 000 now, how can any of us afford that? We will have no where to go if the City evicts us,” he said.

But, Dr Zahid Badroodien, mayoral committee member for community services and health, said the department had originally earmarked this building for sporting purposes and it was never intended for domestic occupation.

“The land parcel forms part of the sports precinct and is zoned for sporting purposes. It can be re-purposed in accordance with the sport and recreation needs of the broader community, as well as that of the recreation and parks department,” he said.

Dr Badroodien said there were 24 tenants living in the building, according to their last count. “The tenants illegally occupying the building were issued an eviction notice and a process managed by the City’s legal department is currently under way.”

The first eviction notice was issued on January 21 2019.