“Every time I walk or drive pass District Six I can see my house still standing there…that is where I was born. It is so heart sore to come to town and go back…you know that feeling of not being able to go home.”
This is how 59 year old Fareed Theunissen described with teary eyes his memories of being evicted from District Six during the apartheid Group Areas Act. Today marks the 50 year commemoration since District Six was declared a whites only area.
The wait for claimants to gain restitution has exceeded two decades. President Jacob Zuma in 2011 had set the deadline for more than 2 600 claimants to return to the area by 2014. However, so far just 139 units have been built.
Former District Six residents say their dream to return back to their homes is slowly fading. Hundreds of elderly claimants are still waiting for restitution, 21 years after democracy. For the majority of claimants on government’s waiting list, it’s a painful reminder of the past. Others have died waiting.
Theunissen says the eviction from District Six ruined his life.
“I think that maybe, if I still lived here in District Six I would not have been a builder but maybe I would have been a professor today. I was sent to Mitchells Plain and there all I could do was talk to my friends about my memories that I have of my home,” he says.
Rosaleen Masemola is a 70 year old widow now, who at the time had to leave District Six with her 5 children and disabled husband.
“When we were forced to move out I had to go to Hanover Park. Four of my sons have passed away because of gangsterism. Ever since then, my life has been one struggle after the next,” says a disheartened Masemola.
She feels that the forced relocation had changed her life completely. In Hanover Park she stayed in sub economic house which she eventually could not afford as the income she had was the disability grant which her husband was receiving.
“I went to go stay in Phillipi in Heinz Park where I am now. It is an informal area we stayed in shacks because you know a widower with all these kids could not afford better,” she explained.
“I still blame the government today for taking us out of District Six because it changed me. I thank the Lord today, my mommy is still alive and we talk about our days in District Six but I don’t know why it ever happened to us. Why did they build there? Why did they take us out? It is our land. We were happy as we grew up there but they destroyed us,” says Masemola, breaking down.
A very sprightly and jovial Aunty Mariam Mosaval, 99 year old, moved to Grassy Park after her family was ejected. She chooses to cling onto the fond memories.
“I was very happy there. Christians and Muslims lived together like one big family. We never had any arguments or fights. We all were living peacefully, but when the group area came they threw us all out to this place,” she recalled.
Mosaval added that her life in the colourful community was hard to get back. She even got married in District Six.
“My life in District Six was a happy life. No worries or trouble just lekker. We had such happy times and you know we even lived near the mosque,” she said as she stared off reminiscing on the days gone by.
When asked if she would move back to District Six she replied saying: “I will be a 100 now, will I be happy there? Maybe, I don’t know from my side I would have to try and make myself happy.” VOC (Najma Bibi Noor Mahomed)