10 February, 2016

Understand where we’re coming from

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Between 1960 and 1983, about 3.5 million black South Africans (black Africans, Indians, Coloureds) were forcibly removed from their homes and had to resettle in other areas, thus beginning the implementation of the Group Areas Act to enforce residential segregation.

The act was aimed at segregating all South Africans according to their race and relocate them to specific areas within the country, mainly the outskirts of cities.

It also restricted the ownership and occupation of land to a specific racial group. For example, blacks were not allowed to own or live in “white areas”. However, black-owned land was taken by the government and used by whites. The forced removals also impacted Indian shop owners.

Residents were segregated into poor and overcrowded areas where the prospects of finding a job were slim.

Sophiatown and District Six are great examples of the effects of the Group Areas Act. Between 1955 and 1963 forced removals in Sophiatown took place, despite resistance from residents. In District Six, removals began in 1968. Religious buildings, houses, businesses and schools were bulldozed.

Government also created Independent Bantustans (homelands) where black Africans were left to fend for themselves.

Members of a Sophiatown family remove their belongings from their home in Toby Street in 1955, before being moved to Meadowlands.

Reservation of Separate Amenities Act of 1953

This act separated public amenities like benches, beaches, buildings, buses etc. Whites and non-whites used separate amenities.

kind of signs that were all over South Africa in the apartheid era
These kind of signs that were all over South Africa in the apartheid era

Sophiatown

About 65 000 residents from Sophiatown were dumped in Soweto to make way for Triomph (Afrikaans word which means Triumph), a suburb for whites under the apartheid regime.

From 1953 preparation for removals were made and in 1955 police were sent to Sophiatown in anticipation of resistance from residents.

Between 1955 and 1959 the community of Sophiatown was destroyed. Its residents and their possessions were loaded in the back of police trucks and taken to Soweto, Meadowlands, Lenasia, Western Coloured Township (now Westbury) and Noordgesig.

By the time the new houses were completed in Meadowlands, notices had already been sent to residents about their removal.

The ANC was at the heart of resistance with regards to forced removals, with slogans such as “We won’t move”, “Ons sal nie dak nie” and “Asihambi” painted on houses.

Today, Afrikaners still live in small houses that replaced the lively yet poor three-bedroom homes and shacks of Sophiatown.

Sophiatown 1959 -Demolishers pulled down the home of Robert Resha in Sofiatown. Here relatives are sitting by belongings outside the house.
Sophiatown 1959 -Demolishers pulled down the home of Robert Resha in Sofiatown. Here relatives are sitting by belongings outside the house.

“The Day They Came For Our House”

Don Mattera’s poem expresses the agony of seeing Sophiatown ripped apart.

Armed with bulldozers

    they came

    to do a job

    nothing more

    just hired killers.

    We gave way

    there was nothing we could do

    although the bitterness stung in us

    and in the earth around us.

Meadowlands became home to communities destroyed by forced removals from areas such as Martindale, Sophiatown and Alexandra.

Sophiatown residents were forcibly removed to Meadowlands, the new township in 1958.
Sophiatown residents were forcibly removed to Meadowlands, the new township in 1958.

District Six

District Six was also declared a white area under the Group Areas Act and residents were removed since it was near the city where they were not wanted.

The racially diverse community of Africans, Coloureds and Indians would be destroyed.

Resident forced to watch their homes being destroyed to make way for white housing
Resident forced to watch their homes being destroyed to make way for white housing

In 1962 the Group Areas Development Board had built 250 houses in the Cape Flats where residents of District Six would be moved.

In 1966 over 60 000 people were forcibly removed and relocated to the Cape Flats.

10 facts about townships during apartheid

  1. Townships were built in uniform using the gridiron street pattern.
  2. They were underdeveloped.
  3. They were reserved for non-whites (black Africans, Coloureds and Indians).
  4. They were located in the periphery of towns and cities.
  5. There were not enough houses to accommodate the large numbers of families.
  6. On the periphery of townships were informal settlements, usually separated by a small stream or ditch.
  7. They lacked proper services such as sewerage, electricity, roads, clean water etc.
  8. Houses were extremely close (there was no room for a garden or children to play and usually referred to as matchboxes).
  9. They were crowded (as a result, disease could spread easily).
  10. Communities were further segregated into ethnic groups (Zulu, Sotho, Xhosa)

Today houses in townships like KwaMashu are being rebuilt. They are bigger and include proper plumbing and electricity and have proper structures.

Meadowlands

Otla utlwa makgowa arei

Are yeng ko Meadowlands

Meadowland Meadowlands

Meadowlands sithando sam

You’ll hear the whites say

Let’s move to Meadowlands

Meadowlands Meadowlands

Meadowlands, my love

Otlwa utlwa botsotsi bare

Ons dak ni ons pola hier

Pola hier pola hier

Pola hier sithando sam

You’ll hear the tsotsis say

We’re not moving, we’re staying here

Stay here, stay here

Stay here, my love

Bantustans (Homelands)

In 1970 the Bantu Homelands Citizenship Act removed South African citizenship from all black people who were issued certificates of citizenship for homelands they belong to.

Bantustans: Bophuthatswana, Ciskei, Gazankulu, KaNgwane, KwaNdebele, KwaZulu, Lebowa, QwaQwa, Transkei and Venda.

The creation of Bantustans was to strip South Africans of political rights as well as their citizenship in South Africa. Government did not want to be financially responsible for those living in Bantustans.

Communities also known as “black spots” were wiped out and moved to far away places where residents had to travel long distances just to get to their places of employment.

Bantustans had no services, no jobs and poor housing.

Dark days: a photograph depicting separation of `whites¿ and `non-whites¿ on a bridge in Cape Town.
Dark days: a photograph depicting separation of `whites¿ and `non-whites¿ on a bridge in Cape Town.

Compiled by Thobeka Ngema (MOJO) for the #RacismStopsWithMe campaign.

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  • LCSZA

    I am just wondering how many whites were actually forced to live with the rules made by Government, not agreeing nor condoning apartheid at all, nor were they raised to be racist? For fear of being marked as traitors and being called much worse, accusations which I do not even care to mention here? I am one of those “whites”! But we cannot look in the review mirror all the time when our life is ahead of us. Healing will NEVER happen then. The majority of whites were rich and comfortable, while others’ children wore secondhand clothing donated by the schools, same as now with the minority of very rich black people being rich and confortable. We need to focus on standing together against those who want to divide us and drive hate in between us!

    • Melanie Anne Ackerman

      Hi, the only thing that I would like to add, is that it was NOT the majority of whites who were rich and comfortable. Many of us lived from day to day relying on the charity as it were, yet in comparison we did have a more comfortable life then the majority of our fellow africans.

  • v_3

    How can a page with arch-racist Eusebius “WorldChampionBlacksplainer” McKaiser as a tag possibly combat racism?
    Next you will have Jimmy Manyi, “Hitler” Khumalo or Julius Malema as contributors.

  • Melanie Anne Ackerman

    Would it help heal our land, if we whites had the same treatment? Would it appease all the blacks who hate us so so much because of our ancestors, if they seperated us from soceity and sent us to townships or similar? If it would, if that is the only possible way to heal our past, its something I would not fight against, as long as in these places, we were free from hate, bitterness and revenge killings, that we could feel safe and not constantly worry that we will be killed just because we were unfortunately born white?

  • Antman

    We were forcibly removed from Redhill Simonstown in 1960, submitted a Land Claim (K 588) in 2000 which is registered in the Gov.Gazette and 16 years later are still waiting… for what? I say yes to forced land occupation in Simonstown where the rich whites still live on privilege! Every time I return and I get so angry when I see this extravagance at the seaside where we were forced out from like dogs