The fight to preserve Bo-Kaap’s heritage now faces another obstacle – with the potential auctioning of two pockets of land at the historic Tana Baru cemetery. As Bo-Kaap residents wage an ongoing battle against gentrification and the burden of high municipal tariffs, it now faced with the reality that two erven of the sacred land could be auctioned at the end of June . According to Tana Baru Trust, Claremart will auction the land at a reserved price of R20 million. The two erven are said to constitute 20 per cent of the cemetery.
Chairperson of the Tana Baru Trust, Dr Aadil Bassier, explained that the erven had been transferred into the names of two Muslim families, but have now indicated their willingness to sell the property.
“As much as we decry the exploitation and gentrification of the Bo-Kaap, here is a classic example of where we as a community are abdicating our responsibility in terms of selling to these developers. So, yes it is a sad day for us.”
Bassier said while he cannot confirm that a well-known funeral parlour may purchase the land, the trust has been given the duty to preserve the area for future generations.
“We have been given a mandate by the Cape Muslim community. We, as the Tana Baru Trust [have been entrusted] to protect and preserve and secure the sanctity of this sacred sanctuary and to recognise and to honour the pioneers of Islam who are buried there.
“So, we have a duty to ensure that no development will take place on that precious legacy. And if we have to, we will mobilise every resource at our disposal to protect the sites from exploitation,” he asserted.
Bassier said that with a reserved price of R20 Million, the trust currently does not have the financial capital to purchase the land from the owners.
He confirmed that the trust is engaging the owners in an attempt to prevent the land from being sold to developers.
“We can hopefully get a sponsor to come to the party with a more reasonable offer to the Muslim brethren, who are in my humble opinion selling their souls for a piece of silver.
“But, if push comes to shove, we will have to mobilise the community and lay down our rules and ensure that the sale does not go through,” he stated.
Bassier said that a number of organisations, including the City of Cape Town have assisted the trust in preserving the land.
“The MJC [Muslim Judicial Council] has, as recently as a year ago, issued a comprehensive fatwa in declaring the site absolutely waqf. So, there is no chance from an Islamic perspective to build on it.”
He confirmed that if the “diplomatic route” fails, the trust will escalate procedures.
“Luckily for us, we have contacts at a higher level in terms of other foreign countries being able to relate to our president. So, we have those options available to us,” Bassier added.
President Cyril Ramaphosa in a recent iftaar gathering, which was hosted by the MJC, undertook to preserve the history of the Bo-Kaap.
“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,” Ramaphosa stated in his address.
VOC attempted to reach out to the land owners on Friday, but to no avail. The City of Cape Town said it could not provide comment, as the land is privately owned.