The minstrels parade is an integral part of the city. It is a uniquely Cape Town …

From the CapeTowner, by Sellecca Lang / Monique Duval, 9th December 2010

The Provincial Department of Arts and Culture has stopped the traditional Nuwejaar street march from going into Bo-Kaap and ending at the Cape Town Stadium on Monday January 3 next year. But some of the minstrel and choirs teams are up in arms because the date and route has changed from the agreement with the City. They have given Dr Ivan Meyer, MEC for Cultural Affairs and Sport, until yesterday, Wednesday December 8 to respond, or they will be taking the matter to court. The initial agreement between the City and Bo-Kaap residents was to allow the annual parade to move from the city, through Bo-Kaap and end at the Cape Town Stadium and was due to take place on Monday January 3 (“Back to Bo-Kaap routes”, CapeTowner, November 18) However the City and the Western Cape Department of Cultural Affairs released a statement last week stating that not only would the parade not go through Bo-Kaap, it will take place on Saturday January 1. The route, which it has followed since 2008, will see the parade move from Keizergracht, Darling Street, left into Adderley Street through Wale Street and turn right into Bree Street and the marchers will disperse from there. There are 46 000 participants and this year nearly 100 000 spectators watched the spectacle.

Osman Shaboodien of the Bo-Kaap Civic Association, who heads up the consultation between all 115 teams across the City, said they were very disappointed. “We have given a proposal to provincial government saying that some of the minstrel groups are contesting January 1 (Saturday) and secondly, the question about Bo-Kaap. We are giving them 24 hours to respond to our request,” he said. Mr Shaboodien said the street parade traditionally took place on January 2 but because the date falls on a Sunday, the teams do not want to march because of the churches in the area. In discussions with the representatives of the teams, the City suggested that the parade be held as a one-day event with all the teams ending at the stadium. But when Province stepped in, the date was changed to January 1, which was one of the original dates suggested. Mr Shaboodien said the press releases gave the impression that everyone agreed to the changes but the new date will only suit the smaller teams because of transport. “Council came up with the idea.They threw in the carrot and then everybody liked the idea… Province cracked the whip. This is more about power and politics. They took it out of the hands of City. They are meddling with City council stuff,” he said. The four teams in Bo-Kaap will still be allowed to march in the area. “We can negotiate January 1 but that we cannot go into Bo-Kaap is non-negotiable,” said Mr Shaboodien. He said since the province joined the meetings, there have been no talks about going to the stadium.

Greg Wagner, the MEC’s media liaison officer, said the only official communications were the three joint media releases. “Any other information remains unofficial and was as a result of preliminary discussions before any decisions were made,” he said. Mr Wagner said the parade cannot go to the stadium for the new year because of the short-timing and the logistics. “To ensure the successful staging of these events, a number of logistics must be considered, including traffic flow, safety and security of participants and spectators, business opening hours, available resources and emergency services personnel, impact on local residents, and preserving this living heritage, among others,” said Mr Wagner. “We are looking at the stadium for the future. It won’t be possible for this year… But it hasn’t been ruled out (for the future),” he said. Mr Wagner said the province was always involved in planning because it provides funding and services to the teams. “The two spheres of government have always supported the minstrels. This year, Province and City decided to work as one team, pool resources, funding and to invest in the long-term growth and quality of the event,” he said. The rental of the stadium for all three tiers is R500 000 and for two tiers is R350 000. He said added costs include services such as security and cleansing, traffic and transport, utility charges, the duration of the event and how many shifts will be needed, the protection of the pitch with and fencing. He said the City and Province contribute annually to the services. “The City’s budget for municipal and contractor services for the 2011 road march is approximately R1.7 million,” said Mr Wagner. Mr Wagner said there were economic benefits for the community. “The R900 000 external services and goods the City procures for the event, benefits smaller businesses. Every participants’ uniform is worth an average of R350, so there are opportunities in material supplies, uniform manufacturing as well as catering and transport,” he said.

Residents have welcomed the event. Bob Goebel, chairperson on the Green Point Ratepayers’ and Residents’ Association, said they welcomed the street parade to the stadium. Bree Street resident Russell Wightman said: “Although I was not informed, I certainly don’t mind. The minstrels parade is a tradition in the city and I’m sure many residents will join the celebrations.” Long Street resident and convenor of the Long Street Residents’ Association (LSRA), Byron Qually said the association was not informed of the new route. The area covered by the association includes all residential properties from Queen Victoria Street to Buitengracht. “The minstrels parade is an integral part of the city. It is a uniquely Cape Town event that is inclusive and open to all. This cultural event will see many Capetonian come to the city to celebrate its heritage unlike other events which are aimed at making money,” said Mr Qually. He said residents needed to be informed of how the parade would be managed and of road closures. Mr Qually said in the past few months many events seemed to be concentrated in the upper Long Street are and he was glad that the minstrels parade would give exposure to other parts of the city. Dave Bryant, executive support officer for ward Councillor Belinda Walker, said Ms Walker was present during the discussions and that she supported the current route. “She supported the route as the initial plan to have 46 000 people walking through Rose Street just wasn’t practical. What we aim to do is turn this event into an international one as it is the biggest cultural event to take place in the city. With all the various groups involved it is often complicated to formalise such an event,” Mr Bryant said. He said the detailed traffic plan which includes the road closures will be released soon.

Copyright Cape Community Newspapers, part of Independent News and Media.

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