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