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Ramadaan: Street boekas help foster social cohesion in Cape Town

Pre-Covid-19 mass community iftar in Bo-Kaap. Picture: Supplied

Pre-Covid-19 mass community iftar in Bo-Kaap. Picture: Supplied

Published Apr 15, 2022

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Cape Town - Mass street community iftars, commonly referred to in Cape Town as “boekas”, are filling streets across the city, enjoining neighbours across religions to take part in the fast-breaking meal together.

Several communities have hosted mass street iftars (fast-breaking meals) since the start of the Holy month of Ramadaan earlier this month. The Bo-Kaap community will be hosting its community boeka at Wale Street on Friday.

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The event, which took a two year break due to the Covid-19 pandemic, previously drew thousands of people across diverse backgrounds, sharing in the fast breaking meal as the sun sets on the picturesque, historical Bo-Kaap.

Bo-Kaap Collective member Shafwaan Laubscher said the first mass street iftar and reclaiming of the streets started in 2018 as a form of protest against a specific property development as well as gentrification, lack of housing and service delivery. Laubscher said the boekas have contributed massively to social cohesion.

“The response to the very first boeka and subsequent boekas held after that was phenomenal. We did not expect it to grow to what we see today. It had a ripple effect and we soon saw other areas hold street boekas, which is amazing,” Laubscher said.

“There will be no formal programme. However, there will be a dhikr (prayer) group rendering beautiful recitations and supplications and it is against this backdrop that we invite all to join in and absorb the ambience of Ramadaan boeka time.”

Those joining can bring something to eat and share with those present. Water, soup and food will be provided.

Road closures can be expected from 4pm in Wale Street, with the event commencing at 5pm. Breaking of the fast will commence at 6.28pm.

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Honeybun Foundation founder Stephen Langman held its first street boeka in Park Road, Wynberg, on Sunday evening.

“I grew up within a Muslim community so the month of Ramadaan has always held a special place in my heart – the meaning behind fasting and the unity of breaking fast.

“There’s also a wide variety of cultures, races and religions within the Wynberg community so I wanted to get everybody together as one and celebrate a breaking of the fast.”

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The foundation will distribute a Cape Malay traditional milk drink, “boeber”, at the Lympleigh Road Park on Friday with another mass iftar to be held at Panton Road Park, Fairways, on Saturday.

Gift of the Givers (GOTG) foundation held its first mass iftar for the month of Ramadan in Heideveld on Saturday, feeding approximately 750 people.

GOTG project manager, Ali Sablay said this was part of a 13 year long tradition.

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“During the Covid-19 pandemic, mass gatherings such as mass boekas/ iftars were prohibited because of the current lockdown we were facing. GOTG have been having mass iftars/ boekas for the last 13 years. This was normally the highlight for many communities across the Cape Flats.”

Every Saturday during the month of Ramadan, GOTG will be having a mass iftar with the next taking place in New Horizons, Pelikan Park, followed by Lavender Hill and Mitchells Plain, thereafter Valhalla Park.

Sablay said this was in addition to the daily iftar which feeds about 5 000 people every night at 13 locations, mostly mosques and madrassahs, in the Western Cape.

“As we know, religion has no barrier for a hungry stomach. As the teachings of our holy Prophet Muhammad (Peace Be Upon Him) in terms of respect and tolerance, we do not turn people of other faiths away when they come for a plate of food.

“Cape Town is a very diverse community, so we find at the time of iftar people of the Muslim faith inviting people of other religions to come and break their fast with them and this is a form of compassion. Everyone, doesn't matter what religion you are from, you’re welcome and everyone is treated the same,” Sablay said.

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