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Gentrification has destroyed our unique Bo-Kaap heritage

Bo-Kaap residents staged a protest in front of the Hilton Hotel, which was covered in black smoke by tyres that they had set alight.

Bo-Kaap residents staged a protest in front of the Hilton Hotel, which was covered in black smoke by tyres that they had set alight.

Published May 28, 2018

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I write this letter as a lifelong resident and youth of the Bo-Kaap.

A very basic description of gentrification is the process whereby individuals or developers increasingly buy property in a working-class or

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lower-middle income area. Among other things, the investment in the area results in increased property value and puts strain on the established community and their ability to exist and remain in the area.

Sadly developers, estate agents, PR and media use words like revitalise and renewal. The problem with this terminology is that it covers up a spatial violence that is occurring in the area, that an established community is being displaced.

Bo-Kaap is a unique community; we are the only inner city community of colour that was not destroyed during the apartheid era.

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Our community has existed in the area since the late 1600s and, at later stages, established settlement. The same families still reside in the area.

Many families are being displaced because they can no longer afford to pay their municipal bills in an already challenging economic environment.

A friend of mine's rates has increased over 400% due to her property being revalued relative to the redeveloped houses and a building development that is in proximity to her home.

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In terms of spatial violence, our existence and way of life is being threatened: newcomers complain about the athan (call to prayer), tour buses block our roads; and tour guides and tourists objectify our community because of a culture of irresponsible tourism.

Film companies, who pay lucrative amounts to the City for a permit, close our roads and often conduct themselves poorly.

Developers have been granted permission to build high-density units in Bo-Kaap with a complete disregard for our community, heritage and the area’s capacity. Increasingly, our public space is regulated, rented or fenced and businesses inconvenience our community with poor driving and parking etiquette. The area is congested all the time and our community and religious activities are disrupted.

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Development, capital generation and securing rates have become the focus of local government. We also see local government selling land that could be used for social value.

In Bo-Kaap, increased commercial entities are operating in a residential area and planned residential building developments are completely out of scale with the surrounding built environment and with disregard to our community.

Our community continues to resist and demand that the heritage protection overlay be granted swiftly and that building development stop.

Concerned resident

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