Bo-Kaap residents fuming after food garden locked up

Bo-Kaap residents started a petition to have the property unlocked so they can have access to their garden.

A petition has been started after residents were barred from accessing the Bo-Kaap Koestas Waqf Food Garden which they started in response to the pandemic.

This comes after the garden was locked by the private owner of the property last month.

The Sustainable Bo-Kaap Association ( SUBOKA) was started by the members of the community in July last year with an aim to feed, educate and economically empower the people of the Bo-Kaap amid the Covid-19 pandemic.

They said they made use of the waqf land, known as the Koestas, to grow food for members and the community, and started teaching other Capetonians how to grow food for themselves.

Waqf land is an endowment of land meant to be used for charitable purposes, including feeding and caring for the needy and vulnerable and providing religious education to Muslims.

SUBOKA said the land was bought in 1972 with the contributions from the people of the Bo-Kaap, who donated money to Sheikh Hanief Booley, to purchase land and build a madrassa on it.

An Islamic organisation, Darul Falaah Study Group (DFSG), was formed to purchase the land for the building of an Islamic educational institution and are the registered owners of the property.

In a statement released by SUBOKA, the group said several of their members went to the property on December 23 to hold the madrassa, harvest food to cook for their families, water the plants and tend to the garden.

They found the gate had a padlock placed on it.

They said this came after other parties which had opposed the use of the land for a garden and a madrassa, and attempted to take the control of the DFSG, had sent a notice to vacate the property to SUBOKA via attorneys, with the given date to vacate being December 18.

SUBOKA said they responded and requested that these individuals prove their standing to do this and follow the legal process should they wish them to leave, without engaging with the community.

DFSG said they have been faced with many delays, including financial hardships and personal circumstances of the trustees, resulting in the land being unused.

They told Cape Argus that it was untrue that the land has been abandoned and a paper trail exists as evidence of the progress made towards this objective over the years showing various expenses incurred.

SUBOKA founder Soraya Booley said the land had been abandoned for 40 years. It was only being used for shelter by criminals and gangsters, as a haven for drug and alcohol use, prostitution and other illicit activities. “It was also a popular site for the dumping of rubble and rubbish,” she said.

“With basic tools and bare hands, the members of SUBOKA, the majority of whom are senior women from the Bo-Kaap, went on their hands and knees and with sweat, blood and tears cleaned up the property and restored its dignity, turning it into a beautiful organic food garden and a place of learning,” she said.

The residents stated in their petition that the land has been locked by individuals opposed to the use of the land for growing food to feed the economically devastated population of the community with their intention to develop the land for themselves, to the exclusion of the community of the Bo-Kaap.

They said there has been opposition to SUBOKA using the waqf land as a food garden and a madrassa, from a small group of individuals within the Bo-Kaap, and other three people who are not from the community.

“These people have now put a fence and two gates on the property, and as South Africa goes into a second hard lockdown, which will cause further devastation to the people of the Bo-Kaap, locked both gates to the property, effectively leaving the food garden to die in the scorching Cape Town summer heat,” they said.

They stated that they have been left with no choice but to approach the Cape Town High Court on an urgent basis to apply for a spoliation order and an interdict against several parties known to be involved in opposing the feeding of the hungry within the community.