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Bo-Kaap residents are rocked by the potential gentrification underway

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By Kouthar Sambo

Residents of Bo-Kaap are concerned, and some are even angry about the potential gentrification underway. This comes after the City of Cape Town approved the Local Spatial Development Framework (LSDF) for the area.

Residents fear the changes will strip the area from its rich culture and heritage.

Co-imam of the Auwal Masjid in Bo-Kaap, Sheikh Ismail Londt said that although the unique nature of the Bo-Kaap community is immediately observable and rich with culture and tradition, gentrification remains a major challenging factor. The masajid, explained Sheikh, must play a more pivotal role in the matter.

“One consequence of gentrification is the fact that it is not all masajid in Bo-Kaap that is allowed to make athaan (calling to prayer) on the loudspeaker as some residents complain to the authorities and council of the area,” added Sheikh.

Furthermore, former Bo-Kaap resident and Al Jama-ah spokesperson Shameemah Salie said gentrification seeks to destroy the beautiful living culture, architecture, and heritage in an attempt to create a romanticized version of the area to “appease the appetites of the tourists, business moguls, and wealthy foreigners.”

This, explained Shameemah, is done to make a quick buck at the expense of the residents and the history of Bo-Kaap.

“I have personally witnessed gentrification starting subtly back in 2000 with offers from wealthy foreigners with no affiliation to the area or comprehension of the culture and heritage, purchasing property at higher prices from residents,” described Shameemah.

Chairperson of the Bo-Kaap Civic Association Osman Shaboodien said Bo-Kaap is the birthplace of Islam in South Africa, while its traditions and culture are held in very esteem and stem strongly from the area.

According to Osman, it is also the last remnants left behind by the Group Areas Act, which was enacted under the Apartheid government of SA.
He continued by saying gentrification hurts the destitute people of Bo-Kaap as affluent people who buy into the area with their dollars, euros, and pounds, push up the costs of property, making it impossible for locals to buy.

“One of the challenges that we have is to find out what the City wants because our voices are quite clear – we are anti-gentrification – we are saying we do not want gentrification in Bo-Kaap,” asserted Osman.

Osman further elaborated and said that the City must be cognizant of the residents’ concerns and must adhere to certain criteria.

“We do not want our culture, heritage, or belief systems compromised in Bo-Kaap, and the people of the area must benefit from the economic activities,” concluded Osman.

Photo: Bo-Kaap/Facebook

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