The historic Tana Baru cemetery in the Bo-Kaap. File photo: INLSA

Cape Town - A Bo-Kaap trust is determined to stop the auctioning of two pieces of land it regards as sacred at the historic Tana Baru cemetery in the area, scene of the first anti-colonial uprising.

The Tana Baru Trust spokesperson, Mohammad Groenewald, said Claremart, the agency auctioning the land, announced two erven would be auctioned at the end of the month at a reserve price of R20 million.

The two erven in question, which Groenewald said constitutes 20% of the cemetery, are at the top of Longmarket Street in the Bo-Kaap.

“Although Claremart is aware of the cemetery status of the land, the advert was placed in the commercial properties section describing the property as a rare development opportunity, with city and harbour views in a trendy location.

“The advert is therefore misleading to potential buyers in that it fails to mention that the two erven form part of a graveyard and any development on this historic heritage site is very unlikely to be approved by the authorities, and certainly will not be allowed by the community,” said Mohammad.

On January 17, 1886, the Muslim community revolted against the closure by the colonial authorities of the Tana Baru cemetery by burying a child at the cemetery, according to SA History Online (SAHO).

About 3 000 Muslims followed the funeral procession in defiance of the colonisers, with the police keeping a close watch on the procession. After the burial 12 policemen attempted to take perceived offenders’ names, but were pelted with stones, forcing them to abandon the area.

In an attempt to preserve the heritage of the Tana Baru uprising and its sacred burial space, a Committee for the Preservation of the Tana Baru was formed in the early 1980s and in 1998 the Tana Baru Trust was formed, records SAHO.

The uprising has continued to form an important part of the heritage of Cape Town’s Muslim community.

Mohammad said the land had been acquired by the late Imam Samoudien in 1857 on behalf of his congregation for burial purposes.

Mohammad said the Tana Baru’s historical significance resides in it being the first officially recognised Muslim cemetery in South Africa, with many of the pioneers of Islam in the Western Cape, such as Tuan Guru, Abu Bakr Effendi and others, buried there. He said efforts were under way to declare The Tana Baru cemetery a national heritage site.

“We oppose the sale of the land to any developer,” Mohammad said.

The community of the Bo-Kaap would continue to engage with all parties involved, including the land owners, and if negotiations fail, they would be forced to approach the courts, he said.

“We will explore options available to us to ensure that this land is retained in the best interests of the community. While the owner is entitled to sell the property to whoever they like and for whatever price, they have made an error of judgement in selling the land without hearing the views of the affected parties.

“Residents have indicated that they will most definitely not support this type of development.”

Claremart general executive director Andrew Koch said: “While I cannot comment officially yet as I have not been personally been dealing with the seller herein, there seem to be some erroneous statements, in particular relating to our company name. I would advise everyone to kindly await our seller’s response, since we are acting as agents herein, and can only convey to the public what we have been provided by the seller. I will revert as soon as we have further information and comment from the seller.

“Until then I would respectfully request you to consider pending (sic) the publishing of such statements which could prove to be seriously incorrect in some cases, or correct in others, once we all have all the facts herein.”

Cape Times