“What we are doing today may never bring District Six to where and what it was, particularly in its architecture, its livelihood, and its community, but we are hopeful that in what we do today, we are contributing to that process of rebuilding and healing the divisions of the past,” these were the words of the minister during the renaming of Keizersgracht Street back to Hanover Street.
Minister of Agriculture, Land Reform and Rural Development, Thoko Didiza, Cape Town Mayor, Dan Plato and District Six Working Committee (D6WC) Chairperson, Shahied Ajam, also unveiled a plaque commemorating the name change.
The day was not just about unveiling a plaque, it was to remember one of South Africa’s most heartless apartheid laws, the Group Areas Act, which allowed for the forced removal of thousands of people living in a cosmopolitan area and moving them to places on the Cape Flats, such as Hanover Park, Mitchell’s Plain, Langa and Mannenberg.
Mr Johaar Mosaval, the first black South African to become a senior principal dancer with the UK’s Royal Ballet, who once lived in District Six, spoke at the unveiling. “I was born here in District Six and travelled the world; I was lucky enough to get that foundation,” said Mr Mosaval.
Addressing a very vibrant and celebratory community of District Six, Minister Didiza said the day marked an important and auspicious national day. She said it is because of the significance of what was going to be done on the day, the renaming of the street back to its original name that holds many memories for those who lived in District Six and were forcibly removed in the sixties and seventies.
“Today brings painful and beautiful memories together. I can imagine those of you who lived in District Six at the time, you remember those who stayed in this street. You remember the games you may have played in this street as young kids and being reprimanded by your parents about the dangers of playing in the streets. You may also remember your walks together with your friends and your loved one in this very street. These are beautiful memories that the name of this street brings back to you. It also holds the pain of the forced removals and the subsequent obliteration of your history as a people,” said the minister.
The minister told the community that the new name became alien to them for it had no meaning and no memory that they wished to remember. “The name that we will remove today marks the legacy of our painful and difficult past. So, the symbol of what we will do today adds another important step in the nation-building process. It is about preserving our heritage as a people as well as our identity. As it is suggested that a concerted effort to preserve our heritage is a vital link to our cultural, educational, aesthetic, inspirational and economic legacies – all of things that quite literally makes us who we are,” said the minister.
“The community of district six was and still is a vibrant community. The group areas Act might have separated you as a community and you found yourselves in different locations, but that never broke your spirit and the vibrancy that you had as a community and as a people. As part of the liberation struggle, you understood that it was important to record your history and keep the memory alive. The district museum has done sterling work in keeping that memory and offer opportunities to many in our society and elsewhere to learn about the history of your community. The museum has ensured that its space will also enable reflections about the history from those who are still alive and their generations to come,” she concluded.
The history of District Six gives a window of understanding the rich history of non-racial and cosmopolitan communities that once formed a fabric of our society. Like Sophia Town, District Six brought people from different social, religious, class, cultural and racial backgrounds together as one community at peace with itself. This was an area where freed slaves, merchants, artisans, laborers and immigrants lived together. It is said that this community had the links between the city and the port.
Issued by the Department of Agriculture, Land Reform and Rural Development Reform
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