From the news desk

‘We need to be taken seriously’, say Bokaap youth

Bokaap youth say their decision to embark on a protest in the area is a cry for help from those in government, who keep turning a blind eye to the socio-economic challenges in the area. On Monday, some 30 people took to the street in front of the Hilton Hotel on the boundary of the area burning tyres and blocking the busy Wale and Buitengracht Street intersection, in a bid to urge authorities to listen to their frustrations that have been growing for years.

BoKaap resident Siraj Leggett said young people are angry and frustrated that the community’s long standing issues are not being taken seriously and are now trying to ‘reclaim Bo-Kaap’. Amongst the main concerns is the issue gentrification and the question around the erosion of heritage in Bokaap. While residents face an uphill battle with the city council’s high municipal rates and water tariffs, he believes heritage should be placed firmly on the agenda.

“I have spoken to councillors and asked what heritage means and they cannot explain what heritage is. It seems as though it’s not an important issue for them. For months our grandparents have been standing in the roads protesting and I think the youth had enough. I got messages from New Zeland and other parts of the people after the protest when viral,” said Leggett, adding that he was proud to see the youth who chanted voiced their anger against the current situation.

An image circulated on social media showing the Bokaap protest

“The young people are learning about the importance of heritage at home and at the masjid. The youth are seeing the struggles of their family and neighbours. People are forced to move out of the area as they can no longer afford it.”

While the Bo-Kaap Civic Association and Ratepayers Chairperson Osman Shabodien was pleased that youth is taking responsibility, he implored that they take action in a responsible manner.

“I think parents and grandparents needs to stand in solidarity with the youth of Bo-Kaap. There are a number of issues, one is housing, unemployment and so many others and the City blocks it off all the time. We attempted to declare Bo-Kaap a heritage site, but the proposal is sitting on the Mayors desk for three years,” said Shabodien.

“We met with the MEC for housing, but they just brushed it off. Then you look that the high rates we have to pay and the water tariffs, and everything else has been put on us as a punishment. They are developing Bo-Kaap that is why they have not declared it a heritage site yet. Bo-Kaap has become an unpleasant area to live in, and we must wak up,” he stressed.

Leggett said he had called the ward councillor Stuart Diamond and 3-weeks later they are still waiting for a response.

When VOC News contacted Diamond for a response, he said he was not sure why the residents were protesting. He did not however promise to engage them on their concerns either.

Legget reiterated a call for all residents of Bo-Kaap to show solidarity by joining the protest in a peaceful manner.  VOC

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