Fury over BoKaap gentrification attempt.

Author:Parker, Mushtak
Position:Around Africa: South Africa

Cape Town's BoKaap Quarter is the traditional home to the city's 'Brown people' and one of the most enduring cultural heritage sites in the country. But plans to gentrify the area have unleashed a storm between developers and residents.

They are the forgotten people, many of whom feel left behind by the post-Apartheid dispensation in South Africa. They are the country's six million 'Brown people', the so-called Coloured (mixed race), Cape Malay and Indian communities--who account for 11% of the 58.1m population.

In the historical BoKaap Quarter in the Western Cape, home to generations of Cape Malays, mainly Muslim Indians and Coloureds--a place dominated by its colourful terraced houses and Islamic cultural heritage--an ugly 'class and heritage war, which has been festering for four years, has erupted into open hostilities.

It involves sit-down street protests; court interdicts prohibiting residents from 'causing obstructions' or 'entering or trespassing sites' and fraud and corruption allegations against the City of Cape Town in granting planning permission to a major developer in contravention of existing legislation.

In tne one corner are the local residents and civic organisations, who claim to be marginalised and ignored by the Western Cape government and Cape Town City Council (CTCC), both run by the Opposition Democratic Alliance (DA). They are protesting against the gentrification of the BoKaap and demanding the preservation of their heritage.

In the other corner are the rapacious property developers, often with European connections, with their "expensive lawyers and greedy investors" (as one civic leader puts it), eyeing one of the 'jewels' of the Western Cape--the BoKaap.

It straddles Signal Hill, with its proximity to the city centre and its

Eanoramic view of Table Bay. The reathtaking coastline stretches from the Waterfront to Sea Point against the backdrop of Table Mountain, and in the distance, there is Robben Island.

What has brought things to a head is a proposed luxury nigh-rise condominium smack in the middle of a working-class area in Lion Street, developed by Blok Urban Developers (BUD), with plans to build 56 residential units.

BoKaap residents have long complained that they are being squeezed out by the 'shenanigans' (rightly or wrongly) of the CTCC through increases in rates, transport costs and utility prices. This has forced some to sell to developers out of desperation and fears of falling into a debt trap...

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