‘KHAYELITSHA IS HOME’
Despite its brutal history, township became home to millions
AT THE heart of the 35-year-old second largest township in the country,
Khayelitsha, stands a lone koppie: Lookout Hill. From the top of the wooden steps, you can see every bit of the vast sandy expanse of the Cape Flats, which stretches for several kilometres |
AT THE heart of the 35-year-old second largest township in the country, Khayelitsha, stands a lone koppie: Lookout Hill.
From the top of the wooden steps, you can see every bit of the vast sandy expanse of the Cape Flats, which stretches for several kilometres along the N2 and is sub-divided into 27 areas, the majority informal settlements.
According to South African History Online, Khayelitsha was built on the principle of racial segregation executed by the apartheid government.
Due to the immense influx of people, the government envisaged Khayelitsha as a relocation point to accommodate all “legal” residents of the Cape Peninsula whether they were in informal settlements or in existing townships – in one new, purpose-built and easily controlled township. The government classified people as legal if they had already lived in the area for 10 years. The government was then to move all “illegal” persons to the Transkei with the help of Johnson Ngxobongwana, but this move was rejected and fights broke out.
According to author and activist Rommel Roberts, “It was just a huge stretch of plain and dull sand and when people started moving into the area from Crossroads following clashes with the UDF and Johnson Ngxobingwana’s witdoeke.”
Crossroads was later sub-divided into New Crossroads, Lower Crossroads and Old Crossroads.
Factionalism led to Ngxobongwana and his remaining supporters distinguishing themselves by wearing white cloths on their heads. They became known as Witdoeke, a group allegedly in coalition with the police to fight against residents who were affiliated to the UDF and associated themselves with the ANC. A bloodbath ensued, leaving tens of thousands of people homeless.
Mali Hoza, 72, who is now a paramount chief in Khayelitsha, was one of the first people to move to the area from Crossroads. At the time he was also labelled as a Witdoek leader but escaped the bloodbath and later became mayor of Khayelitsha.
Now, a far cry from the desert area where the apartheid government sought to dump people as part of the Group Areas Act, Khayelitsha has a buzzing economy and a tourist attraction. Today, Khayelitsha is home to millions of people.
The majority still live in shacks with undesirable sanitary systems. Many are unemployed and feel there is no hope for a better future. But it is home and memories of bloodshed and brutality are a thing of the past.
Here, Archbishop Bill Burnett of the Anglican Church meets some of the Crossroads community leaders to discuss the campaign for mass resistance to the threat of forced removals.