Cape Town city council votes in favour of Bo-Kaap’s heritage protection

By Suné Payne 29 March 2019

Tourists walk in Bo-Kaap, 15 July 2016. EPA/NIC BOTHMA

Bo-Kaap, the country’s oldest Muslim settlement, has finally got its heritage protection in the City of Cape Town, despite attempts to slide in new amendments that were not previously dealt with. Despite all the politicking, all parties in Cape Town’s city council were in agreement – this area, one of the oldest in the country, must be protected at all costs.

Bo-Kaap’s Heritage Protection Overlay Zone (HPOZ) was pushed through on Thursday at a sitting of the Cape Town City Council, even as opposition councillors tabled a last-minute amendment which was eventually denied.

The HPOZ, which will promote and protect the rich cultural and traditional heritage of residents of the country’s oldest Muslim settlement, was passed through city council with 184 votes against 1 negative vote and one councillor abstaining from voting.

But politics delayed the pushing through of the council recommendation, when, despite all major parties in the city council – the Democratic Alliance, African National Congress, African Christian Democratic Party, Congress of the People and the Freedom Front Plus – all agreeing on the HPOZ, the ANC filed a last-minute amendment to the recommendation.

According to ANC caucus leader, Xolani Sotashe, “the DA once again proved they are not interested in the Bo-Kaap’s community struggle to be declared a heritage site” and tabled the following amendments to the council recommendation.

  • Legal representation to be given to Bo-Kaap residents whose properties were affected by current construction developments;
  • A moratorium on all existing developments in Bo-Kaap;
  • Special dispensation on rates and tariffs for Bo-Kaap residents.

But the amendments were denied by the majority DA city council.

The new heritage protection means that owners will be encouraged to retain and rehabilitate existing residential buildings, ensure that new developments don’t negatively affect the area’s historic landscape and to promote the area’s rich social and cultural history, where people interact, on stoeps and pavements in the area.

On Thursday morning, before the council made the decision, mayor Dan Plato told the council in his speech ahead of a passing of a draft budget that “at our recent public hearing around the Bo-Kaap Heritage Protection Overlay Zone (HPOZ), we had a full day of speakers from the community. They participated in a democratic process and today a report will serve before Council, recommending the granting of HPOZ status for the Bo-Kaap.”

Plato went on to add, “the engagements I witnessed at the public hearing showed me that our residents can make their voices heard peacefully and effectively”.

Bo-Kaap, on the slopes of Signal Hill, is South Africa’s oldest Muslim settlement, dating back to the 1700s when freed slaves settled there, and political exiles from Java and Ceylon settled in South Africa.

Today, the community faces issues of gentrification and new developments which have caused residents to protest at entrances to the area.

Various protests against the environmental and cultural impact of new developments over the past two years have caused political intervention by both the African National Congress and the Democratic Alliance.

In November 2018, Cape Argus reported that Muhammed Khalid Sayed, ANC Youth League provincial chairperson in November 2018, nominated Bo-Kaap to become a provincial heritage site. There has been no date set yet for when this will happen.

This was followed by the December 2018 announcement by Arts and Culture minister Nathi Mthethwa that were plans underway to declare Bo-Kaap a national heritage site, according to EWN.

Again, in December 2018, two months into mayor Dan Plato’s new leadership, his team announced plans for Bo-Kaap to have the HPOZ. Public participation then opened up in January 2019 and closed in February, with more than 2,271 comments that were in favour of an HPOZ for the area.

According to a City of Cape Town statement released on Thursday afternoon, the HPOZ will come into effect once it has been published in the provincial gazette. DM

Read in Daily Maverick: Bo-Kaap must heritage status, say residents of the county’s oldest Muslim settlement

Read from GroundUp: Bo Kaap protesters in stand-off with crane


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