Arts and Culture Minister Nathi Mthethwa has announced that 19 historical places in Bo-Kaap would finally be declared as national heritage sites. The minister made the announcement at the Bo Kaap Civic Centre as residents gathered in their numbers.
Chairperson of the Bo Kaap Civic and Ratepayers Association Osman Shabodien said nothing can describe the huge burden that has been lifted from their shoulders as some form of dignity has been restored.
“Nothing can describe how we feel because it was a long journey and last night, we felt so victorious as one of the many battles has been won,” he said.
According to the minister, the declaration will protect, promote and preserve the rich cultural heritage of the area and sites. However, Shabodien said the declaration means so much more than that.
“Bo Kaap is the only area I South Africa that has the most heritage sites and this is only the first phase. The next phase is likely to have another 20 sites declared,” he stated.
“It means dignity has been restored for the Muslim community because most of these sites has a significant meaning to the Muslim society and it means that we are finally recognised,” he added.
When asked what the declaration means, Bo Kaap Collective spokesperson Shafwaan Loubsher said it means that it would now be twice as difficult for developers to access and build on these sites.
“No developer should build onto these sites, but if they do, they could but they would need a building plan and the process could take longer to get approval. Initially developers would have to go via the Western Cape government but now it is a much stricter criteria they would have to follow,” he said.
Loubsher said it was imperative after all these years to have development in Bo Kaap in terms of preserving sites.
“For many years we have fought to have some form of heritage declared for generations to come and spaces to be declared heritage site for our children, our parents and those before them fought for the same issue and now we have some kind of success,” he said.
Among the sites declared as national heritage sites are the Auwal masjid, Prayer Quarry, Tana Baru burial ground, The Stables Site, The Strand Street Quarry, The Wash House Quarry, The Spolander House, Schotsche Kloof and St Pauls primary schools, Buitengracht Street Wall, Vista High School, Schotsche Kloof Homestead, Stadzicht Homestead, Nural Islam Masjid, Jamia Masjid, Masjid Shafee, Masjid Boorhanol Islam, Nurul Huda Masjid and the Bo Kaap Museum.