For its courageous efforts to preserve the heritage of their area, the Bo-Kaap Civic and Ratepayers Association was awarded a gold certificate at the 2019 Simon van der Stel Awards. Picture: Laille Jack/ African News Agency (ANA)
Cape Town - For its courageous efforts to preserve the heritage of their area, the Bo-Kaap Civic and Ratepayers Association was awarded a gold certificate at the 2019 Simon van der Stel Awards.

The awards celebrate outstanding national achievements in heritage conservation at the culmination of the Heritage Association of South Africa’s annual symposium.

The association has been at the forefront of efforts to protect the living heritage, culture and traditions of the Bo-Kaap in central Cape Town. They did this within the context of growing gentrification which posed a threat to their area.

According to the adjudication committee, the group works in the belief that residents have the right to have a say in developments affecting the area. Towards this end the group spearheads the “Bridges not Barriers” campaign to resist inappropriate and insensitive development. The association also contributes to a wider dialogue around the kind of city residents want to live in. Among others, the association exerted pressure that contributed towards the finalisation of a Bo-Kaap heritage protection overlay zone. It has also secured commitments from national government to have 19 national heritage sites declared. In April this year, these sites were formally gazetted by the SA Heritage Resources Agency.

The members of the organisation are all volunteers and have given countless hours to public campaigns to protect the unique heritage, culture and traditions that is the Bo-Kaap. Furthermore, the organisation does not hesitate to turn to the courts.

The adjudication committee recognised the organisation's considerable contribution to the creation of public awareness of South African heritage and the conservation of the National Estate and awarded them a gold certificate.

Association vice-chairperson Fowzia Achmat said: “We feel great and extremely honoured and it's very encouraging to get this kind of recognition.”

In November last year, residents and the police clashed over the recent developments in the area after residents tried to stop a crane from entering the area. The police had to use tear gas to keep protesters at bay.

The association has also remained adamant about developments in the area, dragging developers to court and having interdicts laid against them. In May, Bo-Kaap residents claimed a victory after developer Blok Urban Living dropped its interdict against the community.

“It was a heart-warming experience having the Royals here. Getting this award encourages us even more to fight against gentrification our fight is not over yet,” Achmat said.

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Cape Argus