South Africa's Historic Muslim Neighborhood is Now a Heritage Site
The colorful Bo-Kaap neighborhood in Cape Town city is no longer in jeopardy of being destroyed by developers.
The Bo-Kaap is the oldest surviving residential neighborhood in the city of Cape Town and is home to a thriving Muslim community. Perhaps its most characteristic feature is the candy-colored houses called heerhuise that line the narrow streets. The new heritage status will not prevent new developments in the Bo-Kaap entirely but will ensure the rules regulating development there are more stringent and won't devalue the heerhuise which have been declared conservation-worthy.
Residents of the area have been involved in several protests against the construction of a high-rise apartment block which would uncomfortably increase property rates. Bo-Kaap residents were also unhappy that they were not being consulted about the various developments to occur in their neighborhood. One resident, at the time of the protests, said, "These are massive developments going up here, they have not consulted the community and the way they acquired the ground is very suspect."
Following the decision to give Bo-Kaap heritage status, the Mayor of the Bo-Kaap, Dan Plato, told TimesLIVE:
"Today, the city has officially committed to conserving the unique historical landscape and way of life in the Bo-Kaap by managing development in a sustainable and considered manner.The Bo-Kaap is entering a new chapter where residents and land owners can actively promote it as a heritage tourist destination to the benefit of the local community, as well as the broader Cape Town."
This is a tremendous victory for Bo-Kaap residents who have been fighting for the protection of their neighborhood for almost four years. There are hopes that the new heritage status will make the area a growing tourist destination.