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