The South African government needs to put laws in place to stop the sale of homes in Bokaap. That was the view of Cape historian Ebrahim Roode, commenting on the preservation of the area’s heritage. The area is at risk of losing its culture and heritage, according to a recent report by the US-based World Monuments Fund. The NPO releases its watch-list every two years highlighting neglected cultural sites.
Bokaap, the origin of the malay community, is distinctly known for its diverse community and unique architecture. There are concerns that the heritage of this dynamic area is deteriorating. The residences of this tourist attraction are gradually being replaced by commercial development.
“Our heritage is being sold and we need to have it preserved,” says Rhoode.
Bokaap civic association chairperson Osman shaboodien says one of the main challenges is that fact Bokaap residents are not securing their wills and estates before death.
“Commercial interests are coming at the expense of our heritage. This is due to parents not leaving wills. Our mothers and fathers have to make proper wills because once they die the children fight amongst each other. This is the birthplace of the masjid and to build the masjid you need the people of the community. 20% of the area is gone due to tourists buying the houses,” says Shaboodien.
The City of Cape Town is the owner of a large proportion of the homes occupied by members of the community. A few of the reasons for the deteriorating of this area include people getting evicted because they do not hold title deeds to the homes, as well as government wanting to erect an increase of commercial blocks to promote economic development and foreign investment.
“Residents are not offered funds to maintain these houses as a result most of the buildings are owned by government,” says Rhoode.
The Civic Association feels the precinct is under threat as the Western Cape government does not prioritize heritage. There is a lack of communication between the City of Cape Town’s development department and its heritage department.
“The problem is the City does not have a progress preservation policy one of the reasons is that its departments do not liaise with one another,” Shaboodien asserts.
With nine masajid in Bokaap, the area has played a pivotal role in the conception of Islam. The masajid was developed in the area from 1784 until 1989 at a time of slavery. Most of the houses were established between 1750 to 1850, historically occupied by malay slaves.
“Muslims built their houses there, they lived there and established an area known as the Malay quarter. Now just a small part of the area is distinctly known for its encompassing malay culture,” says Rhoode. VOC