Removals re­mem­bered

Grocott's Mail - - NEWS - By KATHRYN CLEARY

The Group Ar­eas Act of 1950 rav­aged com­mu­ni­ties across South Africa. Names like District 6 and Sophi­a­town stain pop­u­lar his­tory text­books, but never are places like Gra­ham­stown men­tioned. De­spite be­ing left out of the text­books, the Group Ar­eas Act even­tu­ally reared its ugly head in Gra­ham­stown in the early 1970s.

Hav­ing the largest ef­fect on Gra­ham­stown’s In­dian, Coloured and African res­i­dents, the Group Ar­eas Act served to dis­place and de­stroy the very roots of these com­mu­ni­ties.

Tears slid down Harry Rama’s face as he re­called his own story of the Group Ar­eas Act, “all for noth­ing”, he called it. Rama’s child­hood home on Queen Street was re­pos­sessed by the govern­ment and bull­dozed to the ground for re­de­vel­op­ment pur­poses. To this day, the plot where the home once stood re­mains com­pletely empty ex­cept for an old avo­cado tree (that still bares no fruit).

“It was all for noth­ing!” Rama em­pha­sised. The Rama fam­ily owns Harry’s Laun­dry, a busi­ness lo­cated near the taxi rank on Queen Street. De­spite the apartheid govern­ment’s at­tempts to an­nex the fam­ily from their busi­ness, the Ra­mas suc­ceeded in stand­ing their ground.

Rama was able to share his painful story at an event or­gan­ised in part by the Rhodes Uni­ver­sity De­part­ment of His­tory and third-year pub­lic his­tory stu­dents. The stu­dents were re­quired to em­bark on a so­cial re­search project that looked to un­cover the ways in which Gra­ham­stown’s In­dian com­mu­nity was af­fected by the Group Ar­eas Act. Stu­dents in­ter­viewed lo­cal fam­i­lies and cre­ated web­sites show­cas­ing the in­for­ma­tion to the pub­lic.

The event on 18 Oc­to­ber took place at the East­ern Star Gallery, and was led both by stu­dents and Dr Julie Wells, head of the Isikhum­buzo Ap­plied His­tory Unit. Com­mu­nity mem­bers in­volved in stu­dents’ projects were in­vited to come and share their sto­ries, old pho­to­graphs, and news­pa­per clip­pings as a way to re­mem­ber the forced removals of the Group Ar­eas Act.

The event was a great suc­cess, and laid a strong foun­da­tion for fu­ture com­mu­nity work and stu­dent re­search on the im­pact and his­tory of the Group Ar­eas Act in Gra­ham­stown. For more in­for­ma­tion about stu­dents’ work, please con­tact Dr Julie Wells at za.

Spe­cial thank you to the fam­i­lies who will­ingly shared their sto­ries and their time; the Har­jeven, Rama, Gopal, Daya, Nar­sai, Naran, Dul­labh, Ran­chod, and Sonne fam­i­lies.

Stu­dents in­volved in the project in­clude: Heather Dixon, Carla Franco, Kelsey Lemon, Si­mon Wormald, Kathryn Cleary, Me­gan Vetch, Si­mone Smith, Ger­ald Kihara, Nondumiso Msezane, Mike Strong, Lau­ren Jones, Catherine Strat­ford, David Barry, Tristan Britz, Pax Ma­tia, Lesedi Setl­hogo, Juan Deenik, Kibira Kadenge and Chizi Katama • Read Harry Rama's ac­count of his fam­ily's ex­pe­ri­ence of forced removals in Gra­ham­stown here: GrocForcedRe­movals

Champa and Chi­man Har­jeven with third-year His­tory stu­dents Heather Dixon and Kathryn Cleary.

Pho­tos: Sue Maclen­nan

Chrissie and Harry Rama pose for a pho­to­graph with third-year His­tory stu­dent Kathryn Cleary at the East­ern Star Press Mu­seum this week.

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