34 years on the Plain

2016-05-17 06:00

I felt rather nostalgic after reading the articles of people, who spent their life on the Plain.

I would like to share my 34 years of experience working in the Plain, which has become home to me. I became extremely politically conscious way back in the ’60s, when forced removals were the order of the day.

When I arrived in Cape Town in the ’80s, I was totally entranced by the city’s natural beauty and the friendliness of its people. Within a short time, I came face-to-face with the harsh reality of the racial divisions that marred the landscape of this beautiful city. The prime locations facing the sea and the beautiful Table Mountain were reserved for whites, who lived in opulence.

Coloureds and blacks lived and still live in cramped-up matchboxes with little or no recreational facilities other than a growing number of shebeens, in what became known as the Cape Flats.

I heard about Mitchell’s Plain when I worked for a doctor in Grassy Park. I noticed a number of patients travelled all the way to Grassy Park to see a doctor because they didn’t have decent health care services in the Plain. The apartheid government callously dumped people into Mitchell’s Plain without proper facilities.

I immediately decided that I would open a practice in Mitchell’s Plain and offer the residents a service to the best of my ability as my way of fighting the reprehensible apartheid regime.

I was deeply incensed by the fact that Mitchell’s Plain with one million people had no hospital and government at the time had no intentions of building one.

I joined and became the chairman of the Western Cape branch of the National Medical and Dental Association of South Africa. This organisation was the opposition to the racist white dominated Medical Association of South Africa.

One of our first campaigns was to fight for a hospital in Mitchell’s Plain. It was sad to learn that Mitchell’s Plain only got its hospital 22 years after we attained our democracy.

In 1985 I proudly stood with thousands of Capetonians to celebrate the launch of the UDF at Rockland’s Civic Centre when we were exposed to the dynamic young Alan Boesak, who had the audience spellbound by his brilliant oratory, condemning the apartheid regime. In 1986 the students and youth of Mitchell’s Plain took to the streets to make the city ungovernable. News of the student protests went viral internationally, much to the embarrassment of the apartheid regime.

The doctors in Mitchell’s Plain formed an organisation, Concerned Doctors Association, to treat victims of state abuse because the state hospitals were no-go areas for activists at the time. I was proud to be part of that group.

One of the biggest challenges at that time was the apartheid regime dumped truck loads of mandrax to the Cape Flats’ gangs to make them spies.

I am deeply saddened that after all the sacrifices made by the students in the ’80s, most of our youth have turned to drugs and gangsterism.

After 22 years of freedom I fail to understand that we do not have any theatres; arts schools; universities, skills schools and there are no major industries to combat the spiraling unemployment rate in the area and to save workers hours of travelling time to work.

I have had 34 glorious years working in Mitchell’s Plain. Everyday presented an exciting challenge. I love working here and I love the people I treat.

I would like to see more Mitchells Plain residents become entrepreneurs and businessmen. They can do it, they just need the chance.

DR E V Rapiti Mitchells Plain

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