Bo Kaap residents reclaim their streets with prayer
(This article was first published on 26 May 2018 in the Weekend Argus, a weekly regional newspaper distributed in the Western Cape, South Africa.)
Written by Yazeed Kamaldien
Bo Kaap residents held an iftar protest in Wale Street yesterday as a week of anger culminated in a peaceful gathering to raise their concerns.
Residents burned tyres earlier this week in protest against property developers and the City of Cape Town. Iftar is the meal at the end of a day of fasting in Ramadaan.
Osman Shabodien, chairperson of the Bo Kaap civic association, said their iftar was about “fighting for our dignity”.
“We had to do this a long time ago. We have taken over what it ours. This is our Bo Kaap. This is our home and what we are fighting for,” said Shabodien.
“The government could not chuck us all out in apartheid. They are trying to chuck us out now by making it possible for us to live here. They are putting up our rates. They use this area as a tourist zone.”
He added: “We want affordable houses in Bo Kaap. It makes no sense we have developments (in the area) that we can’t afford.
“Tourism must be our domain. We don’t only want buses to drive through and people just put their heads into our houses.”
Shabodien said residents had burned tyres in the area earlier this week because they were angry.
Dawood Terblanche, imam at the Leeuwen Street mosque, said they have “immense frustrations about how the City of Cape town is treating us”.
“We are in ward 77, smack-bang in a white area. We are only a minority in this ward. It has more than 30,000 people and in Bo Kaap we are only over 1,000 people.
“It means the city does not need the people of Bo Kaap therefore they are doing whatever they want to do with us. The vote is coming from the whites and they have to make sure they keep their voters satisfied.”
Councillor Brandon Golding, responsible for ward 77, said the city had been working with the Bo Kaap civic association to address their concerns.
“Some items have taken longer than hoped for. I’ve received comment from province and national on heritage issues,” said Golding.
“The city offers an indigent grant and pensioners can get a rates rebate. Residents can apply for that. I think there are some younger people who are frustrated. They are also angry about buildings going up.”
Among the younger generation of Bo Kaap is resident Shakirah Dramat who is an activist with the campaign Bo Kaap Rise.
“What we say to the city gets disregarded. We want to be heard. This says the city needs to be scared. We are ready to stand as a unit,” said Dramat.
“Over the past few days people have burned tyres but now that we have attention this is what we are about. Tonight is one of the most beautiful sights I have seen. We are standing together.”