How the fear fac­tor was first in­tro­duced

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The fear fac­tor in the north­ern areas that still lingers to­day was first in­tro­duced to the his­tor­i­cally coloured de­mar­cated area when com­mu­ni­ties were forcibly di­vided along ra­cial lines by the apartheid gov­ern­ment in the 1950s.

At the time, it was the fear of the un­known, as peo­ple did not know where they would end up – or who they would call their neigh­bour.

That is how Ce­cil Colin Abra­hams, ad­min­is­tra­tor at the South End Mu­seum and author of the book The 1990 North­ern Areas up­ris­ing in Port El­iz­a­beth, de­scribes Port El­iz­a­beth’s colo­nial and apartheid his­tory.

“When you hear the name ‘Korsten’, you’d be amazed to know the whole story of Korsten,” Abra­hams said.

“In fact, we’ve writ­ten a lit­tle book­let on Korsten. We have dis­cov­ered that [Nel­son Man­dela Univer­sity] Prof Janet Cherry also wrote about Korsten.”

But be­fore Korsten came along, Abra­hams said, there were some areas in PE of which very few de­tails are avail­able to­day.

“There was Strangers’ Lo­ca­tion, which was sit­u­ated where many peo­ple go and eat to­day – Stan­ley Street, Bain Street [and] Ed­ward Street in Cen­tral.

“Peo­ple of colour came into a town which was be­gin­ning to grow and busi­nesses were start­ing and peo­ple came . . . look­ing for work – and that’s how the name came about. The peo­ple com­ing in were re­ferred to as ‘strangers’.

“There was also an­other area named af­ter a cer­tain man called Gubb, in Mill Park,” he said.

“So grad­u­ally, as the city cen­tre grew, the au­thor­i­ties felt peo­ple had to move be­cause they wanted ‘devel­op­ment’ to take place in town, but there were other rea­sons too, like health rea­sons.

“When bubonic plague broke out here in 1901 the blame was placed mainly on the African peo­ple, but it was in­cor­rect. It wasn’t true.

“But, nev­er­the­less, places like Strangers’ Lo­ca­tion and other areas were burned down [and] peo­ple were re­moved.

“They were asked to move to New Brighton, es­pe­cially the Africans, but most of them didn’t want to move to New Brighton and were moved to Korsten, and so we had a whole new area out­side of the mu­nic­i­pal bound­ary.

“Korsten’s pop­u­la­tion was mixed; some whites, but mainly Africans and Khoi-coloured peo­ple were liv­ing there,” Abra- hams said.

“[The Na­tional Party] passed most of it laws in the 1950s – one of those was the Group Areas Act.”

This led to fur­ther re­movals.

“The thing is, where you lived be­fore, you knew every­body, but when you were moved, you didn’t know who was go­ing to live with you. Peo­ple were just thrown to­gether, so a fear fac­tor was in­tro­duced,” Abra­hams said.

To­day the fear in the north­ern areas was so strong that peo­ple were afraid for their chil­dren, too scared to let them walk in the streets.

“We must re­mem­ber that dur­ing that time Bethels­dorp was al­ready there – that’s prac­ti­cally the old­est sub­urb in this metro, start­ing in 1803.

“But, as a mu­nic­i­pal town­ship, Schaud­erville was de­vel­oped next to Korsten and as peo­ple were moved places like Wind­vo­gel, Salt Lake, Hill­side, West End, and all over, those places de­vel­oped over time.

“So now think how all of that af­fected peo­ple psy­cho­log­i­cally.

“The sys­tem was de­signed to keep them where they are to­day.”

Pho­to­graph: SIYABONGA SE­SANT

IN BLACK AND WHITE: South End Mu­seum ad­min­is­tra­tor Ce­cil Colin Abra­hams with his book on the north­ern areas

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