Bo-Kaap to be declared national heritage site

A process to have the Bo-Kaap declared a national heritage site will begin early in the new year, Minister of Arts and Culture Nathi Mthethwa announced on Monday.

His announcement was met with cheers from the people assembled in the hall of Schotshekloof Primary School on the slopes of Signal Hill, at an event organised by the Bo-Kaap Civics and Ratepayers Association to thank the predominantly elderly woman from the neighbourhood whom last month prevented a developer’s crane from entering the area.

Mthethwa also said after the Bo-Kaap has been declared a national heritage site, UNESCO will be asked to declare it a world heritage site.

After proceedings in the school hall, Mthethwa told journalists the process to have the Bo-Kaap a heritage site will be implemented so that “it is not tampered with”.

“These people here should never be disturbed. This is their land. All of us should support them,” he said.

“I don’t think a right-minded person would be opposed to that. It will be to the benefit of society.”

Earlier, he told those in the hall: “People stayed here for centuries. Later, somebody come, says they’re going to increase the rates. ‘You must pay my rates’. Where do you come from?”

“When we talk reconciliation, we talk healing the wounds of the past. Don’t open them,” he said.

He also paid homage to the women of the Bo-Kaap who prevented a crane from entering the neighbourhood, saying they reminded him of the women who led the defiance campaign.

Heritage status for the colourful, historic neighbourhood has been central in its inhabitants’ struggle against gentrification.

In 2013, sub-council 16 called for the Bo-Kaap to be declared a Heritage Protection Overlay Zone (HPOZ). In 2015, proposals from the Bo-Kaap Civic Association together with the City’s environmental resource management department followed, saying an HPOZ would “assist with the preservation of the cultural heritage of the Bo-Kaap”.

But, according to a forensic report by law firm Bowmans, which was adopted by the City council at a dramatic council meeting in October, former Cape Town mayor Patricia de Lille allegedly blocked it.

In early December, De Lille’s successor Dan Plato announced that the city will proceed with the process to have the Bo-Kaap declared an HPOZ.

Meanwhile, a piece of land has been sold to the developers Blok, who started work on a residential development whose units will price in the millions.

Following earlier protests in May, Blok obtained an interdict against the Bo-Kaap Neighbourhood Watch and the community – as well as all other persons causing obstructions or unlawfully conducting themselves.

READ MORE: Bo-Kaap unites in protest to hold onto heritage

This interdict restricted residents from obstructing the route or interfering with the transportation of the mobile crane to and from the construction site at 40 Lion Street.

They are also prohibited from entering the construction site and from vandalising, sabotaging or committing arson to any of Blok’s property – including construction vehicles.

Last month, residents, many of them elderly women, tried to prevent a mobile crane from entering the neighbourhood. As the crane rolled up Bloem Street flanked by private security guards armed with Airsoft guns, some residents laid on the street, blocking the crane’s way.

READ MORE: Bo-Kaap divided over developers

After a standoff which led to the closure of busy Buitengracht Street, stun grenades were fired to disperse the small crowd and five people were arrested for contravening the National Road Traffic Act and a court interdict. The charges were later dropped.

On December 6, Bo-Kaap residents cheered outside the Western Cape High Court after their legal representative informed them an agreement with Blok’s legal has been reached that the crane will not enter the neighbourhood until December 18 – Tuesday.

The matter was postponed to Tuesday, with a court date for arguments set to be determined after consulting with the Judge President of the Western Cape High Court.

Lawyer and Bo-Kaap community member Seeham Samaai said the Bo-Kaap’s issue can’t be separated from that of the rest of the city and of the Western Cape.

She said the city continues to ensure that there is spatial apartheid.

“We are fighting for the heart and soul, not just of the Bo-Kaap, but of the city and of the Western Cape,” she said.

She said the women of the Bo-Kaap were phenomenal.

She said the violence that occurred when the prevented the crane from entering was disproportionate, and government must be kept accountable.

“It must not happen to any community ever again.” — News 24

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Jan Gerber
Jan Gerber
Journalist & photographer. Parliamentary reporter for News24

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