SAHRA declares seven Kramats as National Heritage Sites in Western Cape

The Signal Hill Kramat. Picture: Taariq Halim

The Signal Hill Kramat. Picture: Taariq Halim

Published Apr 8, 2024


In a move to preserve and honour South Africa's rich cultural history, the South African Heritage Resources Agency (SAHRA) has used its authority under the National Heritage Resources Act 25 of 1999 to declare seven Kramats in the Western Cape as National Heritage Sites.

Nestled within the revered Circle of Tombs, these Kramats stand as testament to the spiritual heritage and resilience of South Africa's diverse communities. Legend has it that this sacred circle of shrines, dedicated to Islamic saints and spiritual leaders known as Auliyah, serves as a protective barrier, shielding Cape Town from earthquakes and natural disasters.

“These shrines are places of sanctity that provide spiritual benefits to those who visit and partake in the remembrance of the Auliyah. The Kramats inspire reverence and peace, not because of architectural achievement or aesthetic appeal, but because of the character, knowledge, and spiritual presence of those buried there,” SAHRA said.

Originating from Malay, Indian, Javanese, Bengalese, and Arabian origins, these communities were subjected to oppression and slavery during the Dutch colonial and apartheid eras.

As resistance against colonial tyranny grew, leaders were banished to the Cape, where they laid the foundation for the first Muslim communities. It was amidst this tumultuous backdrop that the Kramats emerged as symbols of spiritual fortitude and cultural resilience.

While the Kramats in the Peninsula area number over 20, with additional sites in Faure, Caledon, Rawsonville, and Bains Kloof, the recent declaration by SAHRA marks a significant milestone in recognising and safeguarding their cultural significance.

The history of the Kramats intertwines with the broader narrative of colonialism and resistance, highlighting the enduring legacy of South Africa's diverse heritage. From the banishment of spiritual leaders to the establishment of the first Mosque during British occupation, each Kramat serves as a poignant reminder of the struggles and triumphs of the past.