Don’t destroy heritage

Philip Bam, secretary, Greater Cape Town Civic Alliance

The Greater Cape Town Civic Alliance, representing a wide range of civic and environmental organisations in the greater Cape metropole, notes with great expectation the attention being given to the application for a heritage protection overlay zoning (HPOZ) for the Bo-Kaap.

The Bo-Kaap community’s struggle to protect the area’s cultural uniqueness against greedy developers is to be lauded. Developers invariably argue that they will be creating jobs and that the opposition to inappropriate development will harm the economy. It’s like saying the drug boss who dishes out money to the community while taking the hard-earned wages
of the breadwinner is okay.

The dignity of the breadwinner to provide for his family means nothing to the drug boss. It is not acceptable to live by the notion that the end justifies the means.

The Bo-Kaap is a unique tourist attraction, well known for its vibrant unique community life which should not be spoilt by inappropriate development.

While the GCTCA understands the need for development, it cannot be at all costs. Some things, such as our unique cultural spaces, should be sacrosanct.

Already gentrification is a major factor in destroying the unique cultural community life for future generations.

The Bo-Kaap needs protection otherwise one of Cape Town’s jewels will be tarnished if not completely destroyed.

The lack of an HPOZ has resulted in a mix of inappropriate architectural design, huge variations in height and style resulting in a built environment that detracts from the original ambience of the area. The City council, over the years, approved out-of-character developments, and we urge developers and the planning approval authorities not to use the tortuous logic that a precedent has been set to allow more ugly anti-heritage developments.

We say it cannot always be about the money. The City might see the inappropriate high rise buildings as an opportunity to raise more rates, but we say, Cape Town is world-renowned and an international attraction, not because of the rates but precisely because of its unique architecture and cultural experiences.

If this area is allowed to degrade into just another concrete jungle, why should tourists invest in coming to Cape Town? But, more importantly, it must be about the locals and their way of life.

The processes seem to take forever and we are glad to hear the mayor’s utterances in support of the HPOZ. The devil might be in the detail, so we urge the representatives of the Bo-Kaap to be exceptionally vigilant on the road to achieving the dream of protecting the culture of the Bo-Kaap.

The people with bags full of money will challenge the community. We say to those greedy developers, go somewhere else. Don’t trample on people’s cultural
dignity. Consult with the people if you wish to develop in their backyards and let the desire of the people prevail.

We urge those
who have the authority and responsibility
to make decisions
about the HPOZ to
do right by the people and not be found wanting.

The GCTCA will be watching the heritage overlay process with a keen eye.