Celebrating land they once owned

2019-10-01 06:00
Christopher McKeith, Peter Kallis, Ivan van Sitters, Cecil van Sitters, Gavin Brooks and Colin van Sitterscommemorate the forced evictions at Redhill.

Christopher McKeith, Peter Kallis, Ivan van Sitters, Cecil van Sitters, Gavin Brooks and Colin van Sitterscommemorate the forced evictions at Redhill.

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More than 72 families were forcibly removed from their homes in Redhill between 1967 and 1970; and still today they return home to celebrate the land they once owned and raise awareness of their plight to get their land back.

“We’re fighting as a community to get the land back because as the community of Redhill we want to go back home,” says George Lawrence, a resident who was removed from the area.

He says about 85% of the families who were removed from the area, which now belongs to Sanparks, were relocated to Ocean View; with the rest being placed in Retreat, Grassy Park and Mitchell’s Plain.

Lawrence’s sister, Margaret Constant told News24: “I was about 9-years-old. My parents got a letter and we were told that we couldn’t stay here anymore. I couldn’t understand why. To us, this was our home. I was heartbroken.”

On Saturday 28 September a number of displaced families gathered once again, as they have done each year for the past 12 years, to commemorate the removal of their families.

“We go back to Redhill every year because we’re fighting to get the land back,” says Lawrence.

“We lost our homes and our livestock. It’s so lovely up there and that’s why we want to go back home.”

Some people have been compensated for the removal of their families, but for many the goal is still to make their way back to the area that was once home.

The annual gathering takes place at a home, which was built in the early 1900s, near the Kleinplaas Dam. Lawrence says people had inhabited the land for over 200 years before their families were removed.

The graves, houses and ruins from the people who once lived in Redhill – and Lawrence’s very own relatives – are still there today. The group prepared for the commemoration by cleaning and pruning the area around the home last week Monday and Tuesday; and celebrated the occasion last Saturday by playing board games, sharing the stories of their childhoods and braaing as a community.

He added: “We get the families together to talk about how we’re going to get the land back.”

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