Get off our land, City of Cape Town tells circus school

A performer with the SA National Circus. (Facebook)
Cape Town – The SA National Circus School is in town but not for much longer, as the City of Cape Town has given notice that its 10-year lease will not be renewed because it has other plans for the land.

The school’s founder, 53-year-old Dimitri Slaverse said he was shocked to read the city’s notice in the post recently because he had been under the impression that they still had a year of the lease left.

“The circus is extremely relevant and a positive thing. Somebody made a decision to pull the plug which is extremely callous and wasn’t thought of,” he told News24 on Tuesday.

“We’re inviting the city to see the circus this week and our show this Saturday. It’s not just clowns running around. There is a lot of skill involved and a lot of people from disadvantaged communities.”

The tent was not easy to move since it was specially designed for the strong wind and was connected to underground steel structures.

There was no plan to look for another property because the non-profit organisation had no funds to move.

“Even just to take one peg out the ground, there is absolutely no money for that.”

Sports field demand

Belinda Walker, mayoral committee member for community services and special projects, said the lease expires on January 31 next year, but included a provision to give notice if the city needed the field for its own purposes.

She said they had given the required notice and the school would have to be off the Hartleyvale property in Observatory by July 31.

“The land is part of the city’s sports facility and the proposal is to add another general sports field.

“There are several fields there, but a lot are fully utilised by clubs and there is general demand from other people.

“We are trying to develop and enlarge it as a sports facility.”

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Asked if the city would take up Slaverse’s invite to check out the circus, she said it depended on the purpose of the visit. The lease did not have an option to renew.

“What people seem to overlook is that the city is the property owner and this is a normal commercial lease. We are not closing down a charitable institution which requires us to go and source other facilities.”


Slaverse started the school a decade ago after performing for big circuses around the world for at least 17 years.

He returned to South Africa because he thought it would be more enjoyable to plough back his expertise and skills as a contortionist and performer into local communities.

He was dubbed “Circus” in primary school because he used to jump off classroom benches and hide in small spaces.

Someone told him about a circus school not far from where his present school was and he went to check it out.

He and his friends could not go in because of apartheid restrictions and they would often jump over the fence to use the equipment while the performers were on lunch, a move that usually resulted in being chased off the property.

But one day it paid off when the manager called them to his offices and offered them the chance to perform at a show in Vrygrond.

There are over 20 artists who perform in each show. The intermediate school sees an average of 300 children per year and they help out with activities such as tickets and lighting while undergoing training. Even his four kids are in the circus business.

A petition to the city’s sports and recreation office had garnered 391 supporters by early on Tuesday afternoon.

“The circus is in my blood and I have never done anything else.”


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