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Marvin Charles - Cape Argus -

The historic Tana Baru cemetery in the Bo-Kaap. File photo: INLSA - 

Cape Town - One of South Africa’s most historic cemeteries is going under the hammer.
It has emerged that the historic Tana Baru cemetery is expected to be auctioned on June 27. It is situated in Schotsche Kloof, which is just above Bo-Kaap. An advert was placed in weekend papers’ commercial properties sections describing the property as a rare development opportunity, with City and harbour views in a trendy location. It’s one of the largest cemeteries in South Africa. The advert has unleashed the anger of Bo-Kaap residents.
“The advert is misleading to potential buyers in that it fails to mention that the two erven form part of a graveyard, and any development on this historic heritage site is very unlikely to be approved by the authorities, and certainly will not be allowed by the community,” said the spokesperson for the Tanu Baru Trust, Mohammad Groenewald.

Similar attempts by others to develop the cemetery have failed. The Tana Baru’s historical significance stems from it being the first officially recognised Muslim cemetery in South Africa. Many pioneers of Islam in the Western Cape, like Tuan Guru, Abubakr Effendi, are buried there.

Groenewald said efforts were under way to have the Tana Baru declared a national heritage site. “We oppose the sale of the land to any developer and urge Claremart and the family who provided Claremart with the mandate to sell at a reserve price of R20million to immediately cancel the auction, and negotiate the transfer of these erven to the Tana Baru Trust in order to allow the Tana Baru to be transformed into a Garden of Remembrance, celebrating and commemorating our rich heritage,” he said.

Action group Bo-Kaap Rise have also weighed in. They have labelled the sale “ridiculous”.

“That is one of the oldest cemeteries in South Africa. It has deep religious significance. To auction it off is ridiculous,” said Bok-Kaap Rise member Mishkah Collier. Collier wrote a thesis about gentrification in Bo-Kaap, and will present her findings in London.

Bo-Kaap Rise has been at the centre of the recent protests in the area. “I don’t think that only residents will be angry. I think the entire Muslim community will be angry about this,” she said.
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Auctions group tells trust to back off over sacred Bo-Kaap land

Sandiso Phaliso - Cape Times -

Cape Town - Auction group Claremart has told the Tana Baru Trust to back off from trying to prevent the sale of two portions of land the trust regards as sacred at the historic Tana Baru cemetery in Bo-Kaap.
Claremart has forged ahead with advertising the land to be auctioned at the end of the month at a reserve price of R20million.
This was met with outrage by the trust, saying the Tana Baru’s historical significance resides in it being the first officially recognised Muslim cemetery in South Africa.
The two plots constitutes 20% of the cemetery. The trust had charged that the Claremart advert was misleading to potential buyers as it “fails to mention that the two erven form part of a graveyard”.
Claremart general executive director Andrew Koch said the trust “should really have reserved judgement before obtaining all the facts of the matter and all the content in the marketing”.
“Despite the fact that part of the site is an old cemetery, the property is currently zoned for development and could be developed if council approve the new owner’s development plan,” he said.
Koch said the Tena Baru Trust spokesperson’s statement that the land in question was unlikely to be approved by council was “a red herring and it is the council alone who can determine this”.
Koch said it appeared that the trust needed to take up their concerns with the current owners and not the agent representing the sellers.
“Their concerns regarding the historical ownership can only be dealt with in a court of law and my auction is not such a court,” said Koch.
He said there was no need to advertise that there were graves on the site as this information was in their brochure.
“We are not required to advertise or specifically disclose any aspect of any property which can be clearly seen when attending on site - which is the case with the existing grave sites. Nevertheless we have done so. Prospective purchasers who contact us during the marketing of the properties for auction are advised of this aspect of the land,” said Koch.
“While we are sensitive to the fact that part of the land is a burial ground, we also have to act as the agent for the private owner and attempt to sell the property as mandated to do so by the sellers and as registered property agents.”
Trust spokesperson Mohammad Groenewald said they would continue with efforts to stop the auction.
He said the land had been acquired by the late Imam Samoudien in 1857 on behalf of his congregation for burial purposes. He said efforts were under way to declare the Tana Baru cemetery a national heritage site.
The Cape SA Jewish Board of Deputies has thrown its weight behind the Tanu Baru Trust. In a statement, the board said: “It would be sacrilegious if through development part of this burial ground, a holy place containing gravestones marking the final resting places of many of the earliest Muslim scholars and imams, should be uprooted and replaced with an upmarket skyscraper.”

Cape Times