Cape Town -District six

District Six
Cape Town - South Africa

Cape Town

Cape Town

District Six is one of a number of Magisterial districts in the City of Cape Town. It was established way back in 1867 and was the home of artisans, merchants, Malay people who were brought to South Africa from the east by the Dutch East India company and slaves who freed by the Cape government, The population in District 6 was large and by 1901 made up almost 10% of the people living in the city of Cape Town.

The struggle against “Apartheid”, although it was not known by that name in those days began when the British Colonial Government in power at the Cape started to forcibly remove 6000 African people from District 6 to a place named Endabeni outside the city. The houses they lived in in District 6 were demolished once they had been moved to prevent them from returning. After these first removals the District 6 continued as before with many people from diverse backgrounds living and worshipping in the area.

District 6 which is built on the lower slopes of Table Mountain and Devils Peak is very centrally situated and had grand views out over Table Bay.

Open ground District Six

Some of the bulldozed land in District 6 with churches in the background.

The land is prime real estate and was viewed as such by the white Nationalist lead government of the day. The proximity of this mixed society on the doorstep of Cape Town went against the grain of the policies being laid down by the government at the time so on the 11th February 1966 District 6 was declared a white residential area and all people of colour were told to leave the area. Many of these people had lived there all their lives and had no where to go to. This of course did not bother the government at all and starting in 1968 forced removals of people living in the area began. Most of the inhabitants of District 6 were removed to the Cape Flats which is about 25 kilometres from the centre of Cape Town.

As the Cape Flats had very little infrastructure and public transport many people who had jobs in Cape Town had problems getting to work. By 1982, 60000 people had been removed from the District 6 area and all the houses and buildings including streets and shops were bulldozed so that all that was left was heaps of rubble where houses once stood. The only buildings that were not touched were the churches and Mosques in the area as the government knew there would be anarchy should they be destroyed. Although there were no residents in District 6 on Sundays the churches were full of people who travelled into town to worship at the churches thay had worshipped in for years.

When implementing its plan to remove the people of District 6 the government had planned to redevelop the area for the use of whites. Due to international and local pressure s their plans never got off the ground and the land remained empty and unutilised. A small part of District 6 was however used when the Oriental Plaza was built to accommodate Indian traders who had been forcibly removed from the area.

The Cape Technicon was also built close by on land that was once occupied by the peoples of District 6. To completely obliterate the memory of District 6 the government also changed its name to Zonnebloem. Since the completion of the removal much water has gone under the bridge. District 6 has remained uninhabited and the scar on the face of the mountain remains for all to see.

In the early 1990's things started to happen politically in South Africa. After much pressure from the ANC and the Inkatha Freedom Party and other smaller groups as well as international sanctions the Nationalist government started to see the writing on the wall and decided that to avoid a civil war in South Africa they had better start speaking to the their political enemies. Shortly afterwards Nelson Mandela was released from prison and the ANC and other banned organisations were unbanned opening the way for dialogue between the groups. Sanity prevailed and in 1994 the first democratic election took place. The ANC won the election and soon took over the reigns of government from the Nationalist government.

Today 12 years after the first democratic elections in South Africa, District 6 still remains a scar on the face of Table Mountain. The people of District 6 are slowly returning to the area as their land claims are finalised. I'm sure that in due course District 6 will be rebuilt and the life and soul of the area will return. In the meantime however people can visit the area and see what has remained after the bulldozers left the area.

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District Six