Legacy of District Six still fresh in memories

2016-10-05 12:51
Youngsters in the minstrel group leading the parade discover the importance of the heritage of District Six.

Youngsters in the minstrel group leading the parade discover the importance of the heritage of District Six.

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The memory and legacy of District Six is still alive and fresh in the memory of many of its former residents.

This was evident when the District Six Working Committee hosted a parade and picnic in the area on Heritage Day on Saturday 24 September.

The organiser of the event and spokesperson for the committee, Shahied Ajam, says there was a joyous mood as the very young, together with veterans from the 1966 District Six evictions, fell in behind the band of the colourful minstrels that led the parade.

“The people made their feelings clear with banners that read ‘enough is enough’ and ‘respect our heritage’, and marched from the Grand Parade up Keizergracht Street to the middle of what used to be home to 60 000 people, forcibly evicted half a century earlier,” he says.

“This occasion serves to remind the authorities they have failed to deliver on the promise of restitution, more than 20 years into democracy. The political will to rectify the pain caused by the crime of apartheid seemed wanting.

“But worse even is the reality that modern day evictions are now happening under the banner of ‘the highest bidder’. Powerful voices spoke up for the people of Tafelberg and Bromwell Street, currently victims of the age-old policy to move poor people to the edges of town in order to make way for the relentless gentrification facilitated by City of Cape Town officials following the dictates of developers and their money.”

The call for the speedy resolution of apartheid-era land claims and for the remaining 42 hectares of District Six land to be proclaimed a Heritage Site, was at the heart of several speeches.

“This was eloquently put by Mary Burton, former president of the Black Sash and TRC commissioner, and by Peter Storey, reverend of the nearby Buitenkant Street Methodist congregation at the time of the removals,” continues Ajam.

He was also the instigator of the commemorative plaque outside his former church, now home to the District Six Museum.

Inveterate campaigner Di Oliver spoke of the dream of claimants coming home to the heart of the City and the need to heal the wound inflicted half a century earlier, a theme echoed by anti-apartheid campaigner Horst Kleinschmidt, who spoke on behalf of the newly formed Active Citizens Alliance of Cape Town.

Ajam also implores all to stand and work together to bring forward the day that the promises the Government and City authorities have made, be delivered upon.
“I encourage all who have not yet signed the petition that makes the call for heritage status for their land, to do so. We plan to engage different communities during October before the petition closes and the signatures with the demand are taken to local and national Government.”

The petition can also be signed on the organisation’s website www.district6wc.co.za. Further information from 021 801 8437, 076 665 6224 or email to enquiries@district6wc.co.za.

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