Bo-Kaap Residents Protest Gentrification

On Friday 25 May 2018, the residents of the Bo-Kaap held an “iftar” or locally known as “boeka” protest in Wale Street, Cape Town. The protest action which saw hundreds of residents and their supporters break their fast with a shared meal in the middle of Wale street was the culmination of a week-long campaign aimed at raising their concerns about the virulent gentrification of the area.

Osman Shabodien, chairperson of the Bo-Kaap Civic Association, said their iftar protest was about “fighting for our dignity”. “We had to do this a long time ago. We have taken over what is ours. This is our Bo-Kaap. This is our home and what we are fighting for,” said Shabodien. “The government could not chuck us all out in apartheid. They are trying to chuck us out now by making it impossible for us to live here. They are putting up our rates. They use this area as a tourist zone. We want affordable houses in the Bo-Kaap.”

Shaykh Dr. Dawood Terblanche, Imam at the Leeuwen Street Masjid in the Bokaap (one of more than seven masajid in the area), said they have “immense frustrations about how the City of Cape Town is treating us. We are in ward 77, smack-bang in a white area. We are only a minority in this ward. It has more than 30 000 people and in Bo-Kaap we are only just over 1 000 people. It means the City does not need the people of Bo-Kaap, therefore they are doing whatever they want to do with us.”

The Bo-Kaap protests have received good support from the youth. One of its members Shakirah Dramat, who is an activist with the campaign Bo-Kaap Rise, described the protests as follows: “Over the past few days people have burned tyres but now that we have the attention of the world we would like them to know that this is what we are about. Tonight is one of the most beautiful sights I have seen. We are standing together.”

Muslim Youth Movement member and Bo-Kaap resident, Mohammed Groenewald, described the purpose of the protest as follows: “Bo-Kaap is one of the most precious historical landmarks and cradle of Islam in South Africa and the heritage of the area must be protected by all, especially Muslims, and therefore it has now become a ‘Fard Kifayah’ a communal obligation to support the protest action. We have been burning tyres and disrupting traffic for the last few weeks and it is directed at the City of Cape Town who is gentrifying us on every level possible. The iftar that was planned had a specific agenda to create attention for our cause. Our neighbours, most of them non-Muslims came to support us. The Iftar was part of us claiming back our streets. The city claims the street belongs to them. They give film companies permits to film in the streets, despite our objections. They also  approve 30 story buildings in the Bo-Kaap. We have taken this matter to court as well as their approval of the gold smelter in Jordan Street. They keep increasing our rates and this is clearly economic gentrification. We will continue to protest until our demands are met.”

The Claremont Main Road Masjid (CMRM) has expressed support and solidarity with the Bo-Kaap protest actions that have brought attention to the unsolicited gentrification of the Bo-Kaap area. In a statement, CMRM said: “We fully support the commitment of the Bo-Kaap community to not only protect the heritage of the Bo-Kaap, but also to ensure affordable housing in the city centre for its residents. We stand in solidarity with the Bo-Kaap residents against predatory developers and complicit city authorities who care only to gentrify the Bo-Kaap and inner-city areas, crowding out black working class and lower middle-class residents near the City centre.”

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