Remember our past

Former Simon’s Town residents will be remembering their painful past on Heritage Day.

They will commemorate the 50th anniversary of Simon’s Town being declared a white area under the apartheid government’s Group Areas Act. Coloured residents were forcibly removed to areas such as Ocean View.

Simon’s Town was declared a white area on 1 September 1967. Forced removals had started two years before, with residents of Luyolo (a township established in the early 1900s for workers from the Eastern Cape who were extending the rail line from Simon’s Town to Kalk Bay) removed in 1965 to Gugulethu. About 1500 people lived there at the time (“Families relive local history”, People’s Post, 29 September 2015).

Other families affected by the forced removals were from Red Hill, Dido Valley, Glencairn, the Kloof, the Kraal, Seaforth, Goede Gift and Simon’s Town central, as well as Noordhoek, Sunnydale and surrounds. They were forced to move to Ocean View, Retreat, Heathfield and Grassy Park.

Organised by the Simon’s Town Museum and the Project Phoenix committee, Sunday’s event will look to remember the tragedy of these forced removals.

Established over two decades ago, the purpose of the committee is to help the museum gather and record the history of all Simonites dispossessed under the Group Areas Act and display an inclusive history of Simon’s Town.

Cathy Slater, curator of the museum, says in a report: “Socially and economically Simon’s Town died. Today anyone who remembers the village prior to the devastation wrought by Group Areas legislation, comments that the soul of Simon’s Town died with the loss of its community.”

Project Phoenix committee member Mary Kindo recalls the day her family was forcibly moved.

“I was a young teenager, living in Dido Valley when we received the news that we had to leave Simon’s Town for this faraway place called Slangkop. It was a time of fear and absolute confusion: Fear because we had no idea where this place with this awful name was, what would lie in store for us in this strange place and confusion as to why we had to leave.

“The day the trucks arrived to move us away to Ocean View was extremely sad. Worse was seeing the helplessness on the faces of our parents who remained silent and reluctant to answer questions from us younger children,” she says.

The 50th commemoration is a reminder of “that painful period suffered by all, mostly our parents and grandparents”, says Kindo.

“It must never be forgotten and never be allowed to happen again. Fifty years seems like the other day. The anger of the injustice of that time is still with us.

“This commemoration is a reminder that we will not allow our history in Simon’s Town or our memories and stories to be forgotten or wished away, and the sacrifices our families made to build this town. This is a day we will reconnect and make sure we are not a forgotten people,” she says.

The commemorative event will start at the Luyolo village site on Sunday at 09:15, followed by a gathering at Simon’s Town Museum and St Francis Church at 09:45. A commemoration walk will take place at 10:00 along St George’s Street to the forced removals monument at Jubilee Square.

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