Residents of Bo-Kaap, in central Cape Town, are resisting the impending gentrification of the area. Property developers are targeting the area for commercial and residential opportunities but residents who’ve lived there for generations are fighting to keep the unique identity of the area, according to News24.
Mikail Blake of Bo-Kaap Rise and Osman Shaboodien, the chairperson of the Bo-Kaap Civic and Ratepayers’ Association, are at the forefront of having the area granted formal heritage protection.
In a conversation with GroundUp, Mikail challenged the city on its support for development and blatant ignorance of the cries of the residents.
He believes that “The City of Cape Town has continued to approve developments that ignore the best interests of Bo-Kaap residents. Developers entering the Bo-Kaap show a blatant disregard for the heritage of the area and the socio-economic circumstances that many of its residents find themselves in”
Properties such as the Hilton Hotel, the 18-storey block on 100 Buitengraght street and the 12-storey apartment block being currently built by BLOK urban property developers are affecting the area’s rates quotient.
However, according to the city’s zoning map, these properties sit in areas zoned for commercial and mixed-use development.
The two civic associations, battling the city to protect the area’s heritage, together with sub-council 16 have been waiting for approval to have Bo-Kaap declared a heritage protection overlay zone (HPOZ).
This is a system the city uses in its zoning scheme to provide protection and manage development in spaces the City identifies as heritage spots.
Councillor Brett Herron, who is the mayoral committee member for transport and urban development, assured Bo-Kaap residents that work to get the HPOZ submission approved was ongoing.
They would have to consider it based on the City’s new spatial development framework that came into effect in April 2018.
Herron insists, however, that heritage protection cannot affect the City’s zoning scheme. Quahnita Samie from Vidamemoria Heritage Consultants concurs and believes that the developers are not acting outside their rights.
She added that “I was raised in Bo-Kaap, in a family home. I understand, acknowledge and respect the memories. However, [the] nostalgia of an imagined past by a select few does not justify exclusivity”.
This is in reference to the fact that the property owner has the full discretion to sell the property to whomever. Yes, heritage status can affect what the new owner does with the land but it can never prevent the sale.
Since the residents protested, burning tyres on Wale Street, in an attempt to get recognition for their call to declare Bo-Kaap a heritage site, sub-council 16 met on 18 June 2018 to discuss matters going forward.
Although the general consensus seems to be that the fight will continue, without the approval of that HPOZ, the future of Bo-Kaap remains at risk.