District Six Debacle

17 Oct

A city tour of Cape Town always includes a stop at District Six, a vacant, grassy area located near downtown between the docks and the mountains. District Six is a former inner-city residential area which was home to many colored people: colored Muslims (Cape Malays), black Xhosa, in addition to Afrikaans, white, and Indian residents. It was a relatively cosmopolitan community.  In the 1970’s over 60,000 of its primarily colored inhabitants were forcibly removed by the apartheid regime and resettled in the sandy Cape Flats townships to the east of the city.


District Six today.




Photos of the once vibrant community.





(Below from Wikipedia)

“Government officials gave four primary reasons for the removals. In accordance with apartheid philosophy, it stated that interracial interaction bred conflict, necessitating the separation of the races. They deemed District Six a slum, fit only for clearance, not rehabilitation. They also portrayed the area as crime-ridden and dangerous; they claimed that the district was a vice den, full of immoral activities like gambling, drinking, and prostitution. Though these were the official reasons, most residents believed that the government sought the land because of its proximity to the city centre, Table Mountain, and the harbour.

“On 11 February 1966, the government declared District Six a whites-only area under the Group Areas Act, with removals starting in 1968. By 1982, more than 60,000 people had been relocated to the sandy, bleak Cape Flats township complex some 25 kilometres away. The old houses were bulldozed. The only buildings left standing were places of worship. International and local pressure made redevelopment difficult for the government, however. The Cape Technikon (now Cape Peninsula University of Technology) was built on a portion of District Six which the government renamed Zonnebloem. Apart from this and some police housing units, the area was left undeveloped.

“Since the fall of apartheid in 1994, the South African government has recognised the older claims of former residents to the area, and pledged to support rebuilding.”

The District Six Museum chronicles the lives and experiences of the people who once resided there. One can ascertain the underlying anger at the disrupted lives due to apartheid, removal, and destruction of the old neighborhood.  It is still palpable. Restitution is long in coming.

Banners in the District Six Museum.


Comments of former residents embroidered into banners.




Richmond Street before the bulldozing began.




And after.




Floor of the District Six Museum with a map of the streets as they were once situated.





St. Mark’s, one of the churches that was allowed to remain standing.




2 Responses to “District Six Debacle”

  1. Angeline M October 17, 2014 at 4:36 am #

    Such a sad statement to what was done here. Great post!

    • Rosemarie October 17, 2014 at 12:17 pm #

      Thank you, Angeline. You have to be present in a place to fully appreciate the impact on lives.

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