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The Ruins of District Six Exposed

Daphne, my wife came home from shopping in the Garden centre recently and told me that on her way home through District Six she saw that the top soil of the fields had been removed exposing some of the ruins of inside walls of the old houses, and that I should take a look.

The Apartheid Government in 1966 declared District Six a “whites only” area under the Group Areas Act of 1950. The area was eventually totally bulldozed and became a shameful scar on the landscape. New businesses refused to move into the area, and those who attempted to had pressure brought on them to keep out.

The Cape Peninsula University of Technology had expanded into the area and they have various building projects on the go. There are various other housing projects which cater for people who have returned to the area.

So the two of us set off almost immediately on a rainy Cape Town morning to have a look at the ruins before they disappeared and here are the pictures below.

The vitality of Distict Six

While we walked around looking at the walls of the old homes, a woman who seemed to be in charge of the removal of the top soil came to join us and explained what they were doing. She mentioned that The Tafelberg Hotel had been on the site and showed us the kitchen boiler that they were busy excavating. She told us that it was the place where the old Liberal party had their final meeting and where they decided to disband as a political force in the 1968, in the wake of enormous state harassment of its members, amongst whom were people of the stature of Alan Paton and Oscar Wolheim.

I have read elsewhere that the final meeting took place in Durban. The Nationalist Government had passed The Prohibition of Improper Interference Bill which prevented interracial political participation.

The Tafelberg Hotel in District Six was one of the few places in the country where people of different races could come together. She also explained that special features that they uncovered for example, paved pathways and obvious road ways would merge with future plans for the area.

We have since become aware that there are plans to construct a wall of memorabilia from the fragments that have been found on the site and in other places.

Note. In January 1957 the Annual Liberal Conference was held at the Tafelberg Hotel because it was “the only establishment in Cape Town worthy to be called a hotel which admitted South African blacks,…” Liberals against Apartheid by R Vigne. The Cape Liberals were fighting for a universal franchise which had been whittled away at the congresses of 1954 and 1955.

6 comments on “The Ruins of District Six Exposed

  1. pennysilva45 says:

    So interesting, Bob, and so sad! The destruction was such a wanton act.

    Love Penny


  2. raymat4 says:

    Interesting Bob

    Thanks Ray


  3. Diana Studer says:

    Those blocks of flats that survive along ‘De Waal Drive’? Were built for returning ex-soldiers?

    The empty fields have been a reminder each time we drive past of silenced memories. Unseen but still very present.


  4. Forever a shame and a heart-breaking story. I’m glad they will incorporate remnants of pathways.


  5. susanmargaretsarah says:

    hi Bob have a google of Graham Ellis and his book – District Six – an Ordinary Day – interesting in the light of what you are uncovering – he had his launch at the District Six Museum – a slim black book – blessings sue g

    Sue Gow 0834675995 0216853684 504 New Rosedale SA Legion Lower Nursery Road Rosbank 7700


  6. david whittaker says:

    As a medical student I worked in District Six we stayed in at Peninsula Maternity Hospital and we went on district calls with the midwives in complete safety – there was fantastic life there.
    David Whitaker


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