August 19 – Nineteenth Day in Cape Town

Today we took a tour in the townships.  Our tour was led by Clive Newman, who is a Project Manager and very passionate about history.  He began the tour at the lookout point of the Cecil Rhodes Memorial (the lower slopes of Devil’s Peak), which we had visited before.  Clive wanted to bring to our attention to how the white South Africans were currently living and I must say it is beautiful.

Clive Newman, our Township Tour Guide

Our view of the township for whites

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Khayelitsha and Gugulethu grew to become the largest townships in the Cape Flats due being products of informal settlement and forced government relocations.  Informal settlements are shacks made of tin (in reality ridged iron), cardboard and wood.  They are mainly illegally occupied by Xhosa people, who were designated under apartheid as residents of Bantustans.  Almost all of the communities of the Cape Flats remain, to one degree or another, poverty stricken.  Serious social problems include a high rate of unemployment and disturbing levels of gang activity.  

Our next stop was to the Cape Flats, an expansive, low-lying flat area that has become home to people the apartheid government designated as non-white.  Our first stop was to the Memorial of the Trojan Horse Massacre, one of the incidents that demonstrated the increasing desperation of the apartheid government.  The Trojan Horse Massacre happened when three anti-apartheid protesters were killed and fifteen others wounded in a police ambush at the corner of St. Simon’s and Thornton Roads in Athlone. A group of onlookers and protesters, who were angry at the widespread Laws of Apartheid, had gathered at the corner of St. Simon’s Road. As anticipated, someone in the crowd threw a stone towards the truck as it passed.  Then the security force men arose from their hiding place and, without any warning, used automatic shotguns to fire shots into the crowd. People scattered. Michael Miranda, aged 11; Shaun Magmoed, aged 15; and Jonathan Claasen, aged 21 were gunned down, and died as a result. A further thirteen adults and two children were also injured in the shooting.

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Our next stop was to the Memorial of the Gugulethu Seven, which was an anti-apartheid group of men between the ages of 16 and 23 that were shot and killed on 3 March 1986 by members of the South African Police force. The seven men included Mandla Simon Mxinwa, Zanisile Zenith Mjobo, Zola Alfred Swelani, Godfrey Jabulani Miya, Christopher Piet, Themba Mlifi and Zabonke John Konile.  It was later uncovered that the police operation that unearthed the Gugulethu Seven’s plans, had been in the works for some time.

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Our next stop was to the Memorial of Amy Biehl, was a young American Fulbright Scholarship exchange student who studied at the University of the Western Cape in 1993 and tragically stoned and stabbed to death in Gugulethu township by young supporters of the Pan African Congress who were later granted amnesty through the Truth and Reconciliation Commission.  In remembrance of her, a non-profit organization, the Amy Biehl Foundation, was founded in 1997. Its mission is to “weave a barrier against violence” by focusing on social, cultural and economic empowerment through its many programs and, in so doing, restore hope and dignity to disadvantaged communities.

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Our next stop was to Look Out Hill in Khayelitsha.  From there we had a spectacular view over Khayelitsha, the Cape Flats and Table Mountain.

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On our final stop, to drop Clive at home, we got to meet his lovely wife, Denise Newman, who has been a professional actress for more than 30 years.
Starting out at the Space Theater gave her the opportunity to create complex characters that resonated with truth and honesty.  With her theater work she got to work with some of the country’s great writer / directors including ATHOL FUGARD, PIETER DIRK UYS and LARA FOOT.  She trained under Alexander von Raumondt, an exponent of “Method Acting” who trained at The Actors Studio in Los Angeles.  In 1980 she was cast in her first lead role – CITY LOVERS – adapted for film from a short story by Nadine Gordimer which deals with the subject of love across the color line in apartheid South Africa.  While South Africans never got to see this film, it was screened in Europe, the UK and USA.

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August 14

Today we went to the District Six (Apartheid) Museum, which is a museum in the former inner-city residential area District Six. District Six was named the Sixth Municipality District of Cape Town in 1867.  Originally established as a mixed community of freed slaves, merchants, artisans, laborers and immigrants, District Six was a vibrant center with close links to the city and the port.  By the beginning of the twentieth century, the process of forced removals and marginalization had begun.  The first to be “resettled” were black South Africans, forcibly displaced from the District in 1901.  As the more prosperous moved away to the suburbs, the area became a neglected ward of Cape Town. In 1966 it was declared a white area under the Group Areas Act of 1950, and by 1982, the life of the community was over. 60 000 people were forcibly removed to barren outlying areas aptly known as the Cape Flats, and their houses in District Six were flattened by bulldozers. The District Six Museum, established in December 1994, works with the memories of these experiences and with the history of forced removals more generally.  The floor of the museum is covered with a big map of the district with hand written notes of former inhabitants, which indicate where their houses were located then. A well-known former resident is jazz musician Abdullah Ibrahim, better known under his artist name Dollard Brand. Other pieces in the museum are old traffic signs, presentations of moments of history, lives of families, historical declarations and the demolition. The District Museum was AWESOME!  I was most inspired by the authenticity of its personal touch.  As I person that loves photography, I was drawn by the personal pictures attached with the personal stories.  It made me aware that there were not a lot of black people in District Six and it appears that it was mainly coloreds that resided there.  Yet, their story of struggle was no different than the black struggle. Hearing Ebraheim’s (our tour guide) personal story was more instrumental to me than any book that I could ever read about District Six.  What struck me most was how he explained how a family would leave home for work and school and come back to a vacant lot.  Nothing I’ve read has ever described it in that manner.  Hearing Ebraheim’s story, coupled with the personal stories that I read in the museum, really put me there and I must say really angered me.  Even though these were stories of the past, I can strongly understand the feelings of the people that choose not to have any affiliations with the rebuilding of District Six.  You’ll never understand a person until you’ve walked a mile in their shoes.  I am well aware of my ancestors walk in the same mile and I am very much aware of their struggle, so I strongly understand and can relate to the struggle of District Six.

You know I had to sit on this bench

I was drawn to the “Resistance” section of the Museum

Our Tour Guide, Ebraheim

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