NEWS
20/06/2018 12:43 SAST | Updated 20/06/2018 13:30 SAST

Gentrification: What Exactly Is Happening In Bo-Kaap?

With a series of high-profile backers and a number of protests, anti-gentrifaction sentiment in Bo-Kaap is gaining traction.

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It has been an issue in the Bo-Kaap for several years, but recently, anti-gentrification sentiment and accompanying protests have gained momentum. Community members are lobbying for the area to be declared a national heritage site, so that it can be protected from developers.

Unhappiness with gentrification has escalated recently, with Bo-Kaap residents organising more vocally against the issue and a number of high-profile figures coming out to support them.

Three weeks ago, residents burnt tyres, closing nearby Wale and Buitengracht streets in protest. According to Eyewitness News (EWN), the Bo-Kaap Civic Association issued a memorandum to the city of Cape Town, demanding that no municipal land should be sold to developers.

Residents reportedly complained about rising property prices as foreigners buy property with euros, pounds and dollars. People who have owned their homes for "over a hundred years" now have to pay "exorbitant" rates and taxes, a community member reportedly said.

Hollywood actor Hakeem Kae-Kazim, a resident of the Bo-Kaap for 20 years, has reportedly thrown his weight behind the resistance, according to the Cape Times. Kae-Kazim, well-known for playing Georges Rutaganda in the 2004 film "Hotel Rwanda", reportedly said the area needed to be protected from "unscrupulous developers".

"It is a vibrant close-knit community where everybody knows everybody and children still play in the street outside their homes," he was quoted as saying.

At the end of last month, as protests continued, the Bo-Kaap Civic and Ratepayers' Association complained that permission had been given to developers to build in the area.

According to the Cape Argus, the Association said in a statement: "Trucks are causing damage to roads; we have no idea what kind of damage is being done to walls of old homes. These apartments are going to have high occupancy by affluent people. There will be increased traffic and an increase in rates. The city also plans to increase water and electricity by huge percentages. We cannot afford the hikes, as so many of our community are already on the poverty line. We need to protect our heritage, the place of birth of Islam in the Cape."

At the close of Ramadan, District Six residents joined the Bo-Kaap community for an iftaar, the breaking of the fast, according to News24. Mandla Mandela was reportedly also there in support of the community.

The protests continued last week.

At an iftaar in Rylands hosted by the Muslim Judicial Council, President Cyril Ramaphosa also acknowledged the problem.

He reportedly said, "We must address the sense of alienation that many people feel, as historical neighbourhoods like the Bo-Kaap face gentrification, and we must strive to ensure that District Six again becomes a vibrant centre of inclusive community life."

Rabia Parker, spokesperson for Bo-Kaap Rise, a movement started to protect the Bo-Kaap's heritage, told News24 that gentrification is viewed differently by the urban elite. While they see it as rejuvenating deteriorating neighourhoods, working-class people who live in those neighbourhoods see it as the loss of generational homes and family ties.

She told News24: "People are moved to the outskirts of the city when their incomes can no longer cover the exponential increase of rates in their community. The cultural allure is slowly fading away, as more high-rise developments are erected with little space for the families it has displaced," she says.

"We are no longer comfortable in our roads, because we have to constantly be fighting the next big development willing to destroy our sacred places. We have seen how gentrification is affecting communities all around us — Woodstock, Salt River and De Waterkant."

For example, while minstrels used to perform in the streets into the early hours of the morning in Bo-Kaap, the city of Cape Town now imposes times in which they are allowed to perform.