This week, residents from the Bo-Kaap rose up in protest against gentrification, high-rise developments and the utter disregard for the heritage and culture of the area and its people.
JP Smith, Cape Town City Council’s mayoral committee member for safety and security, was recently quoted in the media stating that “sinister forces” were behind the recent protests in Cape Town.
He went further by claiming that he had viewed CCTV footage and held meetings with the residents of the area, who confirmed that the people behind the Bo-Kaap protests did not live in the area.
In response to these, residents of Bo-Kaap would like to invite Smith to share the footage he claims to have seen and to confirm with whom he had these meetings.
“We are tired of watching how this area has been taken advantage of, and constantly being
“This ongoing battle and sheer frustration led to the protest actions of last week,” said a young resident from the City Bowl suburb.
“We as the youth of Bo-Kaap aim to be part of a driven cause and ensure that our community and future generations benefit by developing a model of sustainability.
"We have several ideas on how we can improve the situation; we simply need the platform to do so,” said Shakirah Dramat, a community activist and spokesperson for the Bo-Kaap Rise! social movement.
“Now, more and more, I bear witness to how the beautiful heritage and spirit of Bo-Kaap is being bulldozed and how our grievances continue to fall on deaf ears.
“What further disturbs me is that every time residents stand up against theses injustices, the City of Cape Town labels us in some or other way,” said Dramat.
While the City of Cape Town is using the protests and these accusations to deflect from the actual matter at hand, the community of Bo-Kaap continues to suffer. Some of the injustices residents experience include the following:
* Exorbitant rates fees and unaffordable housing: Many in the area have complained about the exorbitant rates they are forced to pay. Some residents have had no option but to sell their properties.
Housing prices in the Bo-Kaap have escalated to a point where people who grew up in the area cannot afford to buy or continue to live in the area, with the cheapest flat currently selling for R1.9m.
Residents without affordable housing options experience extremely difficult living conditions where at times up to 30 people live in a two-roomed flat.
* Request to lower the sound of the call to prayer: The people from the Bo-Kaap are predominantly Muslim and the call to prayer is an integral part of their religion.
However, in recent years new members of the community have requested that the minaret be softened, with some even going as far as requesting that it no longer be broadcast in the area at all.
* Traffic and parking issues in the area: Many people use
Chiappini and Rose streets as a short cut to avoid traffic.
The Bo-Kaap is also used as a free parking solution for those who work in the CBD, not to mention tour buses parking in the already crowed streets.
* Rampant development: The Bo-Kaap is being invaded with oversized, insensitive development on both the City edges and from the inside out.
"The City has also stalled the approval of the community-ratified Bo-Kaap Heritage Protection Overlay Zone for more than two years, leaving the Bo-Kaap unprotected.
Many residents believe this delay is deliberate to make it easy for developers to get uncontested development approvals.
* Lack of sports grounds in the community: Sport is a major driving force in the Bo-Kaap and an integral part of its history. With no playing fields and only a few run-down courts, it makes it impossible to keep youth from negative influences of society at large.
To remedy this, the youth previously used the quarry for rugby practice, but this has recently been blocked off for use.
All these examples should prove to the City of Cape Town that no “sinister forces” were behind the protests and rather that the residents of Bo-Kaap have had enough.
They will continue to fight for the right to preserve the unique living heritage of one of the oldest suburbs in South Africa.
Members of the community want to become active participants in creating a Bo-Kaap that takes care of all its people through providing genuinely affordable social housing, sports facilities, local jobs, food gardens, renewable energy and much more.