Minister makes Bo-Kaap name official

The Bo-Kaap Civic and Ratepayers Association have been successful in their renaming application, which they say is a positive thing for preserving heritage in the historic suburb.

It was a significant moment for residents of Bo-Kaap when the national Department of Arts and Culture approved the official name change and borders of the area.

The move was made official by the Minister of Arts and Culture Nathi Mthethwa, who approved the application from the Bo-Kaap Civic and Ratepayers’ Association (BKCRA) to have the area officially named Bo-Kaap.

It all started with a series of community meetings two years ago (“It’s almost officially Bo-Kaap”, Atlantic Sun, November 19, 2015).

The area had previously been divided into three areas, named Schotschekloof, Stadzicht and Schoone Kloof, all of which had Dutch origins.

The new borders will see Bo-Kaap extend from the Strand Street Quarry to Buitengracht Street, to Carisbrook and up to Military Road. It will also significantly, in terms of heritage protection, include parts of Signal Hill.

Osman Shaboodien, chairperson of the BKCRA, said this was a significant moment for the history of the area as well as the rest of the country.

“It is a great time in Bo-Kaap’s history. It is not just a name. We are breaking the chains of slavery and colonialism. Bo-Kaap is the people’s name.”

Mr Shaboodien said it was also important that the area had official borders for the first time.

He was hopeful that having clearly demarcated borders would help them in their battle against unwanted developments in the area.

“The new demarcations are very important. It will help us fight against developments that often go under the radar.”

BKCRA spokeswoman Jacky Poking said this showed what communities are capable of when they get together and don’t give up on a cause.

She added that not only was it significant to Cape Town, but for the rest of the country.

“It will be important as many developers still call some parts of Bo-Kaap the upper CBD. The Civic has always said that areas like Buitengrahct Street were part of the suburb.”

She said the move to make the name official along with the recognition from the international World Heritage Monitor was important was the preservation of heritage.

“It’s important for South Africa because this is where the first slaves settled. It is also the beginning of Islam in South Africa and people can trace their roots back 200 years to the area. If we lose Bo-Kaap, we lose part of the fabric of this country, so it is significant.”

Bo-Kaap resident Bilqees Baker, who works for the Bo-Kaap Cultural Heritage Gateway, said she supported the move.

“It it is a good thing because Bo-Kaap has been abused in so many ways in terms of developments. We needed physical borders and this is a great start to preserving our heritage.”

She added that the City Council could be doing more to protect the area from developments.

“When you look at all the other places in South Africa that promote tourism, the areas are protected. I have always said that the name needs to be made official,”added Ms Baker.

Wale Street resident Galija Martin said she was very happy that the name had been officially changed.

“Bo-Kaap is very unique. To us, it has always been regarded as Bo-Kaap and in my heart it was Bo-Kaap. But there were always other names.”

She added that the boundaries would also be important to protect the area from developments.

The BKCRA said they are planning a Doepmaal (naming ceremony) for the area on Saturday December 17, the day after the National Day of Reconciliation.

Brett Herron, chairman of the City’s Naming Committee, said: “During my tenure as Naming Committee chairperson, I received a proposal from the Bo-Kaap community representatives, along with a substantial amount of supporting documents and evidence of community support. In fact, they have conducted a thorough public participation process over a period of two years. The City’s Naming Committee supported the renaming and provided the proposal and supporting documents to the Provincial Government to take the necessary steps.”

Priya Reddy, spokesperson for the City of Cape Town, said the City would take direction from the national Department of Arts and Culture as to the boundaries that it has gazetted and will adjust the council’s systems and databases where necessary to reflect such changes.