Fight for heritage protection

Bo-Kaap resident Noor Osman is calling for the implementation of the Heritage Protection Overlay Zone to protect the heritage of the community.

More than a year after submitting their request to join the Heritage Protection Overlay Zone (HPOZ), the Bo-Kaap community are still in the dark about when their area might be included in the zones.

The community believe that if they are included, there will be better protection from largely exclusive developments which don’t benefit the people in the area.

The application process to be included started in 2014 with a number of public meetings organised by the Bo-Kaap Civic and Ratepayers’ Association.They officially submitted their request to the City in 2016.

Bo-Kaap resident Noor Osman believes the HPOZ will be vital to the protection of heritage of one of the oldest suburbs in the country. However, he has questioned the political will from local government. “We had numerous interactions with them. They sent us documentation and asked us to comment. We did it via the civic association and we have heard absolutely nothing. All that we see are huge monster buildings going up.”

Mr Osman added that Bo-Kaap was regarded as one of the big five attractions in the Western Cape. “City council is not interested and they just want to fill their coffers and approve huge buildings that’s being built in Bo-Kaap.

“Effectively they isolate us. From a community perspective, I can tell you that this is definitely advancing the proliferation of gentrification. We stand at great threat of just losing our total heritage. We are very very serious and we are cross. They have actually not done anything to protect us.

“These monster buildings are obviously going to have a huge impact on the Bo-Kaap itself. Bo-Kaap homeowners pay the same rates as people who buy on a dollar/euro basis. The people are asking where is equality and the protection of the indigenous people of Bo-Kaap.”

In their original application, the Bo-Kaap Civic and Ratepayers’ Association stated: “The Bo-Kaap community can trace their heritage back more than 250 years. The Bo-Kaap is the oldest surviving residential neighbourhood of the City of Cape Town and South Africa.

“The tangible and intangible aspects of heritage places are acknowledged in the inclusion of our parks, streets and our ‘stoeps’. It’s part of the fabric and way of life in Bo-Kaap for the last 250 years with our borders stretching to the central city as is evident in the location of our mosques in Long Street, and to the De Waterkant area, the Vos Street mosque and the circle of Kramats on Signal Hill.”

According to Naeemah Sadien of the Development Action Group, the Bo-Kaap community was not the only one which had been frustrated by the slow implementation of the policy.

“The policy allows for council and or property owners to apply for an adoption of the HPOZ under certain requirements.

“Civics, however, feel that the procrastination around their request to consider their neighbourhood as part of the HPOZ is deliberate; and therefore feel frustrated as a result of the lack of communication and transparency from council regarding their request. In this light, they have communicated that council’s deliberate disregard of their HPOZ requests indicates council’s approach which favours exclusive development (which civics view as the leading factor contributing to the erosion of lived-culture and unique quality of life).”

She added that during DAG’s Cape Town Civic Conversations hosted over the course of the year, civic organisations which had highlighted their grievances, included those operating in Wynberg, Constantia, Observatory, Newlands, as well as Bo-Kaap.

“Civics view the HPOZ as a form of protection to their unique quality of life, allowing them to inform decisions made regarding their neighbourhoods’ development. Civics often express, ‘we are not anti-development, however, we are against being excluded’,” added Ms Sadien.

She believed that council failed to understand the intricacies of the National Heritage Act and in most cases, failed to understand and effectively implement and enforce heritage policies that allowed for a more participative form of planning and decision-making.

Brett Herron, mayoral committee member for transport and urban development, however, said the HPOZ was not a policy but rather criteria applied \via the development process.

He said the City had prioritised five areas in the first phase of implementation – Bo-Kaap, Langa, Vredehoek, Philadelphia and Newlands Village.

“The City considers the preservation of heritage as important, in particular in areas of national significance,” said Mr Herron.

“Research is being undertaken to determine the correct approach to the specific heritage issues in the five areas that were identified.

“This is further being aligned with the draft revised MSDF (Municipal Spatial Development Framework).”

The public can access the draft MSDF at the City’s libraries or on the City’s website:

http://www.capetown.gov.za/City-Connect/Have-your-say/Issues-open-for-public-comment/comment-on-the-draft-msdf-and-draft-citp.

The closing date for public comment is Tuesday September 26.