The Bo-Kaap Civic and Ratepayers’ Association has been recognised for its efforts to preserve the community’s architectural and cultural heritage.
The civic association was awarded a gold certificate at this year’s Simon van der Stel awards held in Tulbagh last week.
The chairperson of the Heritage Association of South Africa, Jacques Stoltz, said the awards were given to deserving individuals or collectives who had made an outstanding contribution to the conservation of the national estate in, among other fields, the conservation, protection, restoration of heritage buildings, objects and sites in the country and furthering of all aspects of the South African cultural heritage, collectively or individually.
He said the National Council of the Heritage Association of South Africa (HASA) had, for many years, rewarded individuals and organisations who had given of their time and expertise to conserve South Africa’s heritage resources and who, in the words of the preamble to the National Heritage Resources Act, have by their example “encourage[d] communities to nurture and conserve their legacy so that they may be bequeathed to future generations”.
Mr Stoltz said the awards recognised outstanding conservation efforts across South Africa as are judged by a distinguished panel of heritage and conservation experts.
“All societies or bodies affiliated with HASA and the general public are asked to nominate individuals, or bodies, that they believe warrant awards. A panel of heritage conservation experts are appointed each year to consider the nominations and recommend deserving winners to the HASA Council,” he said.
Touching on how the civic association scooped this award, Mr Stoltz said it had been at the forefront of efforts to protect the heritage, living heritage, culture and traditions of the Bo-Kaap.
“This they do within the context of growing gentrification. The group works in the belief that residents have the right to have a say in developments affecting the area. Towards this end the group spearheads the ‘Bridges not Barriers’ campaign to resist inappropriate and insensitive development. The association also contributes to a wider dialogue around the kind of city residents want to live in,” he said.
He said they exerted pressure that contributed towards the finalisation of a Bo-Kaap Heritage Protection Overlay Zone. It has also secured commitments from national government to have 19 national heritage sites declared.
In April this year, these sites were formally gazetted by the South African Heritage Resources Agency.
“The members of the organisation are all volunteers and have given countless hours to public campaigns to protect the unique heritage, culture and traditions that is the Bo-Kaap. Furthermore, the organisation does not hesitate to turn to the courts when necessary,” he said.
He added that the adjudication committee recognised the organisation’s considerable contribution to the creation of public awareness of South African heritage and the conservation of the national estate and awarded them a gold certificate.
He said the Bo-Kaap Civic and Ratepayers’ Association demonstrated what can be achieved through hard work, perseverance and grass roots level organisation and activism.
He said the community was an underprivileged community which made the association’s work all the more remarkable given the constrained resources. They had for many years now managed to elevate heritage concerns in the Bo-Kaap to a national level.
“We’re hoping that the impressive track record of the Bo-Kaap Civic and Ratepayers’ Association in successfully opposing insensitive developments will inspire others,” he said.
The vice-chairperson of the Bo-Kaap Civic and Ratepayers’ Association, Fowzia Achmat, told Cape Argus that they felt extremely honoured and it was very encouraging to get this kind of recognition.