Heritage hearings under way

“Only when the last call to prayer has filled the skies of the Bo-Kaap before dawn, only when the last mosque has closed its doors, only when the last family moves out; only then will the City and developers realise that you can’t buy community and culture.”

These were the words uttered by the chairperson of the Bo-Kaap Civic and Ratepayers’ Association (BKCRA), Jacky Poking, at the sector hearings for the proposed Heritage Protection Overlay Zone (HPOZ) for the Bo-Kaap, held at the Cape Town Civic Centre on Saturday February 9.

The public participation process for the HPOZ is in its fourth week now with the closing date for submissions and comments being Friday February 22.

The sector hearings were about the proposed HPOZ to conserve Bo-Kaap heritage.

The residents met with mayor Dan Plato, the City’s mayoral member for spatial planning and environment, Marian Nieuwoudt and other officials from the City’s heritage management department.

Bo-Kaap residents have been protesting against developments in the area and demanding it is declared as a heritage site.

The matter dates back to 2013 when the then ward councillor Dave Bryant first proposed an HPOZ for the Bo-Kaap via a motion to Sub-council 16 in 2013. The process was stopped and the HPOZ for the Bo-Kaap was put on hold indefinitely.

Ward 77 councillor Brandon Golding submitted another motion to Sub-council 16 in 2018, requesting that the HPOZ for the Bo-Kaap is implemented with immediate effect and that reasons be given for the delay.

In December last year, Mr Plato stated that due to the period of time that has passed, officials from the City’s heritage management department had advised that a new round of public participation will need to take place.

“We want to ensure that we follow due process and that we do not cut corners in dealing with this very serious matter,” he said.

Bo-Kaap residents gathered and voiced their views on the proposed HPOZ.

Resident Dimitri Papathanassiou raised concerns about whether the zoning would be applied retroactively to developments that have already been approved. The City has stated: “Where the legislative requirements for approvals have already been successfully concluded, the HPOZ cannot be retroactively applied. In other words, an approved building plan cannot be unapproved.”

“That is very disturbing. At this moment there are about 15 property developments that have been approved since we applied for the HPOZ status, had we had HPOZ in 2015, these developments wouldn’t have happened,” he said, to which the crowd clapped and cheered. “We’re a community at risk of extinction,” he said.

Mr Papathanassiou urged the City council to, among other things, conduct consultative workshops on the details of a Bo-Kaap HPOZ.

“I urge the City council to remove HPOZ provision of grandfathering existing developments approved in 2015. I urge you or the office of the public protector to open an investigation making public the Bowman report findings to ensure that approved projects fully comply with the final HPOZ,” he said.

Sharing his sentiment, Ms Poking said Bo-Kaap is under siege. She said the three-year delay damaged the Bo-Kaap forever. Ms Poking touched on what she called “speculative development frenzy” in Bo-Kaap.

“40 Rose Street, 150 Buitengracht Street, 40 Lion Street, we contested and objected these developments, but we were ignored. For the ‘monster development’ there were over 1 100 objections but it was approved,” she said.

Ms Poking said the community wants immediate interim approval of the HPOZ. She said they want a moratorium on all developments as well as an independent inquiry on why this was stalled under the former mayor’s administration.

She said the only people who have benefited from the delays are the developers. She said they are not against development, progress and change, but they are against insensitive and careless developments that are only about the developer’s bottom line.

“We recommend a ‘Stop Work’ on the Blok development now. We want a revocation of the approved monster building,” said Ms Poking.

The community received support from neighbouring civic associations such as De Waterkant Civic Association and the Observatory Civic Association (OCA) as well as the Muslim Judicial Council.

Representing the (OCA), chairperson, Tauriq Jenkins, said they were behind the Bo-Kaap community.

“It is very ironic that Bo-Kaap gives heritage to the city yet this whole process seems to be so unjust. Hundreds of thousands of people come to the Bo-Kaap every single year and leave with something precious, something intangible about their experience, yet today, even after the delays since 2013, the very basic human acknowledgement and recognition of Bo-Kaap being a place of heritage is yet to occur,” he said.

Mr Jenkins said the HPOZ was not necessarily a silver bullet but it was an important start. The proposed HPOZ for the Bo-Kaap extends to the Table Mountain National Park and includes the northern green verges to the north-west of Strand Street, and includes Buitengracht Street between the intersections with Carisbrook and Strand streets.

Ms Nieuwoudt thanked the residents and told them their concerns were noted by the officials and would be considered . She urged them to be specific in their comments during public participation.

“This must have been one of the most fruitful public engagements I’ve ever had. I thank the community of Bo-Kaap, it is energising to see that a group of people/ community are able to understand what they want and find an appropriate way to get what they want,” she said.