CULTURAL: Historic Bo-Kaap

The ethnic cleansing of communities like the Bo-Kaap, Woodstock and Salt River makes me physically ill.

Our communities, culture and identity are being trampled upon and sold to the highest bidder - and it seems that the preferred system is structured in such a way that we are left powerless.

The process of community participation, especially with regards to raising objections, has turned into something of a joke.

Just ask the community of Bo-Kaap if you need confirmation of this. The level of disrespect shown to these mense and their traditions is astounding!

Ironically though, the rich culture and heritage of the Bo-Kaap, which the City of Cape Town, many hotels, restaurants and CBD businesses use to promote their location and attract clients, is the very culture and heritage they do not mind stepping on for their financial gain.

Though this is clearly a very complex problem, a few simple things stand out for me.

Something which is glaringly obvious is that the people making economic and social decisions about and for Bo-Kaap know nothing about this rich cultural area.

Osman “Oesie” Shaboodien, chairperson of the Bo-Kaap Civic and Ratepayers Association describes this perfectly.

He says: “Apartheid did many things, but one thing it did particularly well was take away the identity and recognition of people.

“When you had someone who worked in your house or your garden, you knew they were there, but you were not interested in their identity, their culture or even their name.

“This is how Bo-Kaap, Woodstock and Salt River are now being treated.

“Stakeholders acknowledge our existence, but don’t give us much thought further than that.”

A good example of this was last year in December when Shaboodien was called by someone from the Capital Mirage Hotel in the CBD.

They had a request. They asked Oesie “to see to it that the “noise” coming from the mosque be stopped.

There was a person shouting very loudly from the mosque every morning and this disturbed their guests.”

Oesie was asked to please see to it that this person (the muathhin making Athaan) stopped shouting.

The religions, traditions and cultures of the Bo-Kaap were there long before any of the money-hungry private corporations and developers knew of this now highly contested neighbourhood.

So why in this democratic, diverse South Africa, are we asking disenfranchised communities to change who and what they are to accommodate the wealthy and the privileged?

When you buy a house in New Orleans, you cannot complain about the noise at carnival time. The same when you live in Rio, you simply have to embrace the congested streets and rowdy party people.

But lo and behold - that is not how it works in the Bo-Kaap!

Here, rich, privileged foreigners wave their foreign currency, buy a house in a culturally and historically rich neighbourhood and expect the “hotnots” to accommodate them. Oh hell no, verkere bus mense!

You colonised us once, your wealth should not allow you to do it again.

Sadly though, these people are given the platform and legitimate right to do just that.

On Tuesday night a community meeting was held in Bo-Kaap to discuss the possible development of a gold smelter/refinery to be set up in Jordaan Street.

The Bo-Kaap community responded to this with a rersounding NO!

My concern is that what happens in Bo-Kaap is seen by the rest of Cape Town as “their” problem.

Mense, we should change our outlook on this!

We should be supporting the people of Bo-Kaap, as THEY are the ones at the forefront of opposing this ethnic cleansing of our communities and our cultures. Gangsterism, gentrification, violence and all other social ills that our communities experience - is ALL OF OUR problem.

We will continue to remain our own worst enemy if we do not unite and fight those who are trying to eradicate all that we hold dear.

Bo-Kaap, we stand with you. Hanover Park, we stand with you. Bonteheuwel, we stand with you.

For we will have far more impact when we stand together.