Nyanga: A lesson in our history

2017-06-15 06:00


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NYANGA is one of the oldest Black townships in South Africa, and is located about 26 kilometres from the Cape Town city center, along the N2 close to the Cape Town International Airport.

Like most townships in the country, it became as a result of the migrant labour system, and a spillover from Langa.

Its name in Xhosa means ‘moon’. The residents of Nyanga were active in joining a national call to protest against the apartheid laws in 1960.

Later they were active in the 1976 student uprisings against the use of Afrikaans as first language in schools.

In the early 80s, Nyanga became notorious for its Black on Black faction violence that was perpetrated by the state police.

Local authorities (izibonda) grouped themselves according to their backgrounds in the land allocation process.

These cultural differences were allegedly used by the police to stir up violence, and elements of the community were infiltrated by the Apartheid regime.

This led to the emergence of a notoriously violent gang called “the witdoeke” (the white headscarfs).

As a result Tambo Square came into existance. In that period, the youth targeted heavy drinking and “shebeens” (illegal liquor outlets) as obstacles to political activism.

Shebeens were destroyed with petrol bombs and stones, forcing many operators to close down.

The present police station in Nyanga used to a beer hall.

The first township in the country was established as a result of a bubonic plague which that ravaged Cape Town in 1901.

The plague was used by the government as reason to remove Africans from the centre of Cape Town, because they were regarded as a health hazard and about 5000 people were forcibly relocated to Uitvlugt, a state farm, now known as Ndabeni.

Forced relocations affected people residing in the notorious District Six but also dockworkers living in hostels on the foreshore (where the current V & A Waterfront is located).

People were moved into structures made out of corrugated iron, each accommodating about eight people.

In 1918 another disease, the Spanish influenza, was used as a reason to move people further away from Ndabeni to Langa, which was named after Chief Langalibalele, who was then incarcerated at Robben island.

Suddenly, Langa became home to thousands of people forcibly relocated from Ndabeni and other areas in Central Cape Town.

Nyanga East was established in 1943 with 210 houses, as the National Party came to power and few years before the Group Areas Act No. 41 of 1950 was promulgated: This law would aim to assign racial groups to different residential and business sections in urban areas in a system of urban apartheid.

An effect of the law was to exclude non-whites from living in the most developed areas, which were the preserve of white folk.

As the Nationalist Party came to power and the apartheid government was established, the control of non-white populations became even stronger and more brutal.

Africans were not allowed in parks or at the beaches, buses and trains were segregated.

In 1955, Nyanga was enlarged to include the settlement of Mau-Mau and by 1958, Nyanga West, now called Gugulethu, was established.

In the uprisings of June 1976 which started in Soweto, the student resistance quickly spread in other areas, and, by August, youth from Nyanga and Gugulethu were also engaged.

The Nyanga-Gugulethu SNA is made up of 26 local sub-areas, including New Crossroads, Green Village, Mau-Mau, Mkhonto, Freedom Square, Mpetha Square, Mpinga Super Nkathazo, Hlazo Village, Zwelitsha, and Black City, among others.


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