Community members gathered at the District Six Museum Homecoming Centre on Wednesday morning, in memory of the forced evictions that drove more than 60 000 residents out of the area. The 11th February 2015 marks 49 years to the day that District Six was officially declared a whites only area, with removals officially beginning in 1968.
Each year the museum hosts a remembrance programme where ex-residents return to the area along with stones from their current area of residence, which are then place at a special memorial site on the old Hanover Street.
However, the historic piece of land has become an issue of contention after the Cape Peninsula University of Technology (CPUT) last year chose to begin construction on student residences around the site, which is owned by the university.
“It is going to be a very different kind of event I think, because this is the first 11th of February that we are not able to do the complete memorial performances around the site. We are not able to do the music or storytelling, because at the moment it is on the middle of a building site,” said District Six Museum director, Bonita Bennett.
Despite anger and concern amongst ex-residents over the sanctity of the site in question, she said the event should be used as an opportunity to look at how best to continue the memorial programme. She added that the museum would also take into account the communities perspective in regards to memorialisation.
The event itself began at 11am on Wednesday morning at the homecoming centre, before proceeding through the streets of District Six towards the memorial site.
“We’ve asked for permission from the construction company, and they will actually clear a pathway for us to get there. We will try and do a very different act of remembrance there,” she said, prior to the event.
Bennett said that those in attendance would also be requested to write a letter towards CPUT, mimicking the eviction noticed received from the Group Areas Board during the evictions. The letter would contain the communities own wishes regarding the preservation of the memorial site.
To cater to those unable to attend the early morning event, the museum will also be hosting an interfaith service at the Lydia Williams Centre for Memory, in Chapel Street on Wednesday evening. The service will begin at 7pm, and will include an address from guest speaker and former Constitutional Court judge, Albie Sachs.
The programme is free and open to all. VOC (Mubeen Banderker)