Fifty years to get back to where he be­longs

Nos­tal­gia trip Re­tired teacher leads tours of De Vlakte, tells tales of life be­fore the Group Ar­eas Act struck

The Times (South Africa) - - News - By AISHA HAUSER

● Al­most half a cen­tury ago Wil­fred Da­mon,

66, was forcibly re­moved from his home in Stel­len­bosch be­cause of his colour.

But the re­tired teacher will re­turn “home” on Satur­day to host a guided walk­ing tour of Die Vlakte on which he will share mem­o­ries of the place he was forced to leave.

“The new gen­er­a­tion, some of them don’t even know about it,” Da­mon said, ex­plain­ing that the tour came about af­ter his daugh­ter, Ilze Wolff, ex­pressed cu­rios­ity about where he grew up.

She urged him to share his sto­ries be­cause not many peo­ple had heard about the forced re­movals at Die Vlakte in Stel­len­bosch.

Be­tween 1969 and 1972 the neigh­bour­hood, in­clud­ing most of the schools, was de­mol­ished and 3 700 res­i­dents were or­dered to re­lo­cate to the newly des­ig­nated coloured area of Cloetesville to make way for whites.

The homes of Da­mon and the rest of the com­mu­nity were turned into ex­pan­sive park­ing ar­eas and ex­pen­sive town­houses.

“Wher­ever you see a park­ing lot — that’s where we lived,’’ he said.

“The streets are still there but the peo­ple are gone.”

Ac­cord­ing to Al­bert Grundlingh, a Stel­len­bosch Univer­sity pro­fes­sor, Die Vlakte was pro­claimed a whites-only area on Septem­ber 25 1964.

Da­mon was born in his grand­mother’s house op­po­site the mosque in Ban­hoek Road, Die Vlakte’s main road. WIL­FRED DA­MON Re­tired teacher

“I grew up about 20 steps from the cinema, which was a big thing in those days.”

He de­scribes Die Vlakte as a com­mu­nity of schools and churches and re­mem­bers the sound of church bells. But he also re­mem­bers that on March 1 1971 his par­ents and his seven sib­lings were given the order to move from their life­long home.

“As the houses [in Cloetesville] be­came avail­able, they would knock on your door, give you a deed of own­er­ship, a key to your new house and a date to move.

“The date was usu­ally ‘sooner rather than later’,” Da­mon said.

“The area was four streets by six streets across. Most of the brown pop­u­la­tion of Stel­len­bosch lived there. We’re talk­ing thou­sands of peo­ple.”

The walk­ing tour will be­gin at 10am on Satur­day from Lück­hoff Build­ing on the corner of Ryn­eveldt and Banghoek streets and will take walk­ers on a tour of Stel­len­bosch.

“The new gen­er­a­tion, some of them don’t even know about it”

Pic­ture: Esa Alexan­der

PARKED MEM­O­RIES Wil­fred Da­mon of Cloetesville stands where his child­hood neigh­bour­hood of Die Vlakte was de­mol­ished 50 years ago

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