2016 will mark the 109th year since the first Cape minstrel parade walked through the streets of Cape Town, creating a tradition that has been at the heart of this city’s heritage for many decades.
However, many people now feel that this tradition is a nuisance to the greater Cape Town community, particularly in the Bo-Kaap area which sees most of the parade during the festive period and especially during New Year’s celebrations.
While the prevailing feeling is that the Bo-Kaap community see the Tweede Nuwe Jaar minstrel parade as part of the Cape Malay quarter’s rich history, some residents feel the cultural event has lost its essence. Over recent years, the event has been marred by public disturbances and petty crimes.
One Bo-Kaap resident who wished to remain anonymous said the ‘Klopse’ have no regard for people’s property and are unruly in the communities which they visit.
People have witnessed that in the hysteria of the carnival, the participants jump on people’s vehicles and thus, damage cars.
Other residents believe the minstrels disturb the public’s peace. In 2011 the City of Cape Town imposed restricted access for parading in Bo-Kaap, citing noise and traffic disturbances. Thousands of minstrels took to the streets in protest. The following year, in 2012 the minstrels got the permission to once again proceed with the celebration of their culture and history.
“The minstrels always create a disturbance around prayer times and then briefly pause their music when the call to prayer is heard, but continue immediately afterwards and the people in the community cannot focus during their prayers because of the constant overbearing noise,” said one elderly gentleman in the Bo-Kaap area.
Many elderly residents are also extremely perturbed by the noise levels created by the minstrels and the chatter of the crowds gathered to spectate until the early hours of the morning.
The performers have been known to behave in a disorderly and sometimes drunken manner whilst parading the streets. When residents have refused to allow them to use the toilets in their homes, some would become vulgar and respond with profanity.
“When some members participating in the carnival have asked to use our homes toilet and we have refused they respond by swearing and actually proceeded to urinate in pot plants and have been known to urinate against the wall outside the Shafee masjid in Chiappini Street in particular,” explained another Bo-kaap resident.
There have also been complaints about the teams repeatedly playing similar tunes. People are annoyed that the same song is played over and over again with no variation.
Another resident complained that roads are blocked off and residents in the area are not given prior notice which causes difficulty in accessing their homes when they are using vehicles. Discourteous crowds of spectators and participants in the carnival then express their displeasure by screaming profanities.
“Roads are blocked off and when you as a resident want to pass through the street in order to make your way home, you are greeted by uncouth, rough people who think that they own the streets of Bo-Kaap and refuse to allow you to pass through. They don’t respect our area and display a complete lack of regard for Bo-Kaap’s residents,” said one community member.
Despite the many negative responses the carnival has received, it remains a celebrated tradition that many flock to the streets of the Cape Town CBD to witness every year and it seems this will remain so for a long time to come despite the carnival’s critics. VOC (Haanim Davids)