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Minister to visit Bo-Kaap over heritage status

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Minister of Arts and Culture Nathi Mtethwa is expected to visit Bo-Kaap on Tuesday evening following a previous engagement last year around the ongoing fight against gentrification and the pursuit of heritage status. With the national elections just one week away, Bo-Kaap is seen as a major testing ground for the ANC, amid growing frustration by residents with the DA-administration perceived lack of political will to address gentrification.

For the past year, residents have been engaged in a stand-off with property developers, while the pressing issue of heritage protection became a major source of contestation within the city council. Following months of campaigning by residents and activists, the area was finally designated as a Heritage Protection Overlay Zone (HPOZ) in April.

During a visit to the historical area on Reconciliation Day on 16th December, Mthethwa announced that the department intended to have the area declared a national heritage site.

“We have sought the help of the minister to grant heritage status to certain landmarks in Bo-Kaap so we expect some exciting news,” says Shafwaan Loubsher from the Bo-Kaap Collective.

Bo-Kaap activists have spearheaded a social media campaign called #OurBoKaap to lobby the minister to use his political will to declare the area as a heritage site. They’ve also initiated a social media page @OurBokaap which tells the stories of the historical area through the eyes of residents. Loubsher said they want to change the prevailing narrative about Bo-Kaap through the lived experiences its inhabitants.

“If you search online, you will find a lot of information written by journalists and bloggers. The aim of this campaign is to create personal stories of people living in Bo-Kaap or those who are attached to the area,” he said.

The Bo-Kaap Collective believe there is an urgent need for all mosques to be declared as heritage sites, including the Auwal masjid, the first mosque in South Africa. Loubsher said the current property development around the mosque is a major cause of concern. Their objective is to ensure that property developers consider the sensitivities of the community and the sacredness of these sites during construction.

The minister’s visit will commence with a media briefing at 3pm at Auwal masjid and will be followed by house visits after Asr. A community meeting will take place at 7.30pm at the Bo-Kaap Civic Centre. Residents are urged to attend in their numbers and engage directly with the minister.
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