‘KHAYELIT­SHA IS HOME’

De­spite its bru­tal his­tory, town­ship be­came home to mil­lions

Weekend Argus (Saturday Edition) - - NEWS - ASANDA SOKANYILE | asanda.sokanyile@inl.co.za

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.

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