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Mitchell’s Plain A PLACE IN THE SUN

THE STORY OF MITCHELL’S PLAIN AS TOLD BY ITS PEOPLE 1974 – 2011 Compiler: Marlene le Roux Researcher: Ludmila Ommundsen Pessoa

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Winning picture:

ALBETH BUGAN, 12 RIDGEVILLE PRIMARY

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CONTENTS

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Published on behalf of Artscape & Alliance Française, Mitchell’s Plain by Mikateko Media, 19 Bree Street, Cape Town 8001; PO Box 872, Green Point 8051; Phone 021 417 1111

Editor: Ingrid Jones Production Coordinator: Gaynor Jones Facilitator: Merle Philander Art Director: Deidre Nortje Designer: Ricky Joshua Sub-editor: Anthony Sharpe Proofreader: Lorelle Bell

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Reproduction: NMP Repro Production Manager: Nadiema Eid Publisher: Desireé Johnson Managing Director: Andrew Nunneley Board of Directors: Desireé Johnson, Ingrid Jones, Bridget McCarney, Bulelwa Mtsali, John Psillos Printers: Shumani Disclaimer Published by Mikateko Media (Pty) Ltd. All rights reserved. While precautions have been taken to ensure the accuracy of information, neither the editor, publisher nor Mikateko Media can be held liable for any inaccuracies, injury or damages that may arise.

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Project intro Historic overview Highlights Janine Van Rooy Heidi Edson Mark Kleinschmidt Moosa Aysen James Bhemgee Venete Klein Ryland Fisher

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Trevor Oosterwyk

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Rudolph Porthen Cecil Jacobs Theresa Solomon Brenda Leonard Lutfeyah Abrahams Mike Michaels Mymoena Richards Willie & Veronica Vivian Petersen Research essay: Ludmila Ommundsen Pessoa

Florida Martin Michelle Ohlsson

Alistair Izobell

Simmers

Mel Jones Cee-Jay Williams

Omar Adams

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School essay

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Mitchell’s Plain: A place in the sun COMPILER: Marlene Le Roux; Researcher: Dr Ludmila Ommundsen Pessoa

Marlene Le Roux
 


Director at Artscape, with Audience Development and Education as her portfolio. She is a motivational speaker; author of a book on women, disability and sensuality, Look at Me; she fights for the rights of women and people living with disability; and is Commissioner for the Protection and Promotion of Culture, Religion and Linguistic Communities.

Dr Ludmila Ommundsen Pessoa


Presently director of Alliances Françaises of Cape Town and Mitchell’s Plain. She lectured at the University of Haute-Normandie (Le Havre, France) and the University of Limerick (Ireland). A member of IDEES/CIRTAI (UMR 6228 of CNRS), her research focuses on 19th-century British culture and contemporary South Africa from a combined gender and cultural studies perspective.

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Mitchell’s Plain: A Place in the Sun is not a factual account of the history of Mitchell’s Plain, nor does it attempt to stick to a timeline via which historians can trace the history of a people. It’s a narrative account of the lives of 24 people who experienced living in Mitchell’s Plain at different stages of their lives. Through their eyes the history of a place that was the dumping ground of the so-called Coloured people takes shape as a place that produced ordinary people living extraordinary lives. It is honest, raw, sometimes inaccurate, but always truthful. It turns the spotlight on a place and a people sometimes forgotten by history. Theirs are the real stories of Mitchell’s Plain.

THE BACKGROUND

THE PROJECT

Historically the arts, culture and heritage sectors of only a minority of the South African population were recognised, valued and celebrated. It is, however, evident that in a country with such huge socioeconomic challenges, the arts can make a meaningful contribution towards individual development and social cohesion.

The Mitchell’s Plain Oral History Project aims to shift perspectives of Mitchell’s Plain from a place of poverty, violence and despair to a place of hope and possibility. It is a collection of narratives of people who have lived, worked and made an impact on the development of the area. The founding paper, entitled “From Geographies of Power to Humanities of Empowerment“, presented at the Métissages/ Mixing Cultures conference in February 2010, co-organised by the University of Cape Town, the University of Paris VII, Artscape and the Alliances Françaises of Cape Town and Mitchell’s Plain, now constitutes the last chapter of the book and is intended to contextualise the narratives. The stories arose out of a series of workshops and engagements with the people of Mitchell’s Plain. Children from local schools participated through visual-art and short-story competitions. An exhibition and a stage musical provided further inspiration.

In 2000 Artscape initiated a partnership with the Alliance Française in Mitchell’s Plain (AFMP) to establish a satellite arts theatre. The AFMP offered a place where artists could come together, where the youth and the broader community of Mitchell’s Plain could share cultural ideas and skills, and where they could engage with each other in a safe and neutral space. A positive result of this partnership was the Certificate for Youth Trainers, a youth-development programme encapsulating individual development, and building bridges across cultural and language divisions.

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PROJECT INTRODUCTION

Hitherto, no book has been produced on the history of Mitchell’s Plain. This project wants to recognise and preserve the diversity of the people and their history, as told by and reflected on by the community. Covering a timespan of 35 years, it draws on written historical documentation and oral interviews with people for whom Mitchell’s Plain is a very special place. THE APPROACH The community of Mitchell’s Plain was asked, via various public-participation processes, to nominate people whom they regarded as inspirational, and who personified Mitchell’s Plain. They were asked to consider:

• People who made a positive contribution to the development of Mitchell’s Plain from its inception. • People with stories about how Mitchell’s Plain impacted on their lives. • Positive Mitchell’s Plain role models who have risen to prominence in public life. The question of Coloured identity is a highly political and emotive issue, and diverse views exist about what being Coloured means. This book does not attempt to emphasise ethnicity or reinforce stereotypes. It attempts to shed light on how townships were constructed to shape identity and to serve a particular ideology (apartheid); it celebrates the human spirit and the

resilience of individuals to rise above adversity; it attempts to further the notion that one cannot confine people to the labels foisted upon them. GRATITUDE A special thanks to: • Ivan Meyer, MEC for Social Development in the Western Cape, and Antoine Michon, French Consul-General, who believed in the project. • Michael Maas, CEO, and Pieter Lourens, CFO, Artscape, for their understanding, support and commitment. • Guy de la Chevalerie, Counsellor Head of Co-operation, French Embassy and Georges Lory (Délégué Général Alliance

Française of South Africa). • Fabrice Mongiat, former director of the Alliance Française in Mitchell’s Plain, who, with the support of Malcolm Campbell, chairperson of the AFMP committee, spearheaded the building of the AFMP (1998) and under whose leadership the Alliance became a vibrant cultural centre • Dr Neil le Roux, Chief Executive, Suidooster Festival, and Prof Jakes Gerwel, Chairperson, Suidooster Festival, who understood the significance of the book and an opportunity for people to access to it through a partnership with the festival. • Amanda Barnes, Nolan Africa, Mike de Beer and Ingrid Jones for their exceptional project-management skills.

“In the obsession with the high and the mighty, the rich and the famous, it is so often forgotten that the vast majority on our planet lives far away from those social spaces; that the world is made up of so-called ordinary people living lives of continuous struggle against great odds; that the real heroes are those unsung and under-sung human beings who manage to survive every day and go on to a next; and that so many not only survive those circumstances, but rise above them and become agents of change and betterment of those circumstances and beyond. This publication is a reminder of continuing deprivation and persistent heroism; the evidence of soulless sand and grey landscape; the hope that lives in a small garden that is flowering.” Professor Jakes Gerwel Chairperson, Suidooster Festival

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M

A SNAPSHOT

THE PEOPLE In 1979, Mitchell’s Plain was estimated to have a population of 45 000, with 8 600 houses. The population could be estimated to be close to 1.8 million people. Mitchell’s Plain is predominantly inhabited by Coloureds (89.6 percent), followed by Black Africans (9.5 percent), Indians (0.5 percent) and Whites (0.3 percent).

THE PLACE The western half of the township includes Westridge, Rocklands, Strandfontein, Portlands, Woodlands, Colorado Park and Weltevreden. The eastern half includes Tafelsig, Eastridge, Beacon Valley, and Lentegeur. Over time, other subareas were built to alleviate the housing shortages, with some homeowners still struggling with defects as a result of poor workmanship.

The Woodlands People’s Centre, erected in 1990, was the first of its kind in Mitchell’s Plain. The centre offered muchneeded services and worked closely with other community organisations to address issues like domestic violence, drug and alcohol abuse, debt, illiteracy and teenage pregnancies. There was no library, however, and children had to walk across a busy intersection to visit the library in Lentegeur.

Although there are mixed views on being Coloured or being labelled Coloured, the majority of people in Mitchell’s Plain appear to be proud to be such. Many who were involved in the struggle for democracy would argue that they are Black, a term used in the Employment Equity Act No 55 of 1998 to include people who were left out in the past. Many residents argue that the part played by Coloureds in the struggle has been downplayed

1980

1976 In 1976, the first families moved into Westridge.

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Houses were built at an alarming rate of 33 units per working day, and the aim was to build 22 high schools and 66 primary schools.

In 1980, the first train carrying passengers from Mitchell’s Plain began operating.

XHOSA

PLAIN

Many other areas, such as Morgens Village, Rondevlei (near Westgate Mall), London Villiage, The Farm, Watergate, The Leagues, Montague’s Gift, Freedom Park and other informal settlements see themselves as part of Mitchell’s Plain. Each area is unique and has its own history apart from the general history of Mitchell’s Plain.

ENGLISH

MITCHELL’S

itchell’s Plain, situated 20km from central Cape Town, was envisaged by the apartheid government to be an ambitious development scheme for a model South African city – the largest “garden city with built-in community facilities, town houses, semidetached and stand-alone houses”.

AFRIKAANS

THE HISTORY OF

Most of the inhabitants speak Afrikaans, some speak English, and a small percentage speak Xhosa.

1990 The Woodlands People’s Centre was erected in 1990 with the assistance of donor contributions and the sweat equity of the locals.

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OVERVIEW

and that they have not been given the recognition they deserve. Listening to the views of young people in Mitchell’s Plain there is a sense of belonging. “Why try to fit in when you are born to stand out?” asks Kyle Wheeler, a 16-yearold soccer player. Kyle says that Coloured people have their own uniqueness, their own peculiar way of doing or saying things and he is not embarrassed to be Coloured. On a local travel website, www. encounter.co.za, conversations by young people about being Coloured point to the Khoikhoi and Khoisan as the first indigenous nation of South Africa, and the pride of being Coloured. “Little did I know when I decided to google ‘coloured history’ that I’d discover so many diverse opinions on the matter,” posts Nuri Joseph on the site.

Coloured identity Under the apartheid government, South Africans were labelled by the colour of their skin and and their language.

THE POLITICS Around the time that the first families moved to Mitchell’s Plain in 1976, protests in Soweto, Johannesburg, broke out against the forced introduction of Afrikaans as a compulsory language in African schools. Many political parties, organisations, activists and members of civil society were banned, detained, jailed, exiled or killed. During the 1980s and at the height of the school boycotts, Mitchell’s Plain’s activists – ordinary people and students – mobilised mass campaigns to increase pressure on the apartheid government. On 20 August 1983, the United Democratic Front (UDF) was launched at the Rocklands Civic Centre in Mitchell’s Plain. Approximately 10 000 people attended the launch.

Political history During the 1980s and at the height of the school boycotts, Mitchell’s Plain’s activists – ordinary people and students – mobilised mass campaigns to increase pressure on the apartheid government.

Demographics 1979 45 000 people 8 600 households 2010 1.8 million people 80 000 households

The rallying point around the formation of the UDF was opposition to the Tricameral Parliament as well as the changes taking place on a social, economic and political level following the Soweto uprising. Allan Boesak, pastor, former president of the World Alliance of Reformed Churches, anti-apartheid activist and, later, chairperson of the ANC in the Western Cape, was the keynote speaker. Strong civic campaigns for better living conditions and student campaigns against “gutter education” marked the 1980s in Mitchell’s Plain. The period from 1980 to 1994 in South Africa was characterised by violent clashes and protest action on an unprecedented scale. Alternative media, art, song, drama, dance, sport and the development of other skills became vehicles through

Crime Mitchell’s Plain has been named “South Africa’s teen drug capital”. Approximately 400 pupils from 12 high schools in Mitchell’s Plain were polled.

which to express political frustration, but also a way to prepare people – especially future generations – for freedom. Since the outcome of the first elections in 1994, the political landscape in Mitchell’s Plain, a highly contested political area, has never been the same. A common sentiment expressed is that, when elections are on the horizon, political parties try to capture the Coloured vote. And that is when politicians focus their attention on Mitchell’s Plain.

Religion Mitchell’s Plain is polled as being 69.9 percent Christian, and 26 percent Muslim, with the remainder not indicating a religion.

Activities

Mitchell’s Plain is a beehive of activity when it comes to trading arts and crafts, and possibilities for the nurturing of creativity.

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LOOKING BACK...

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JANINE VAN ROOY POET, RAPPER, MUSICIAN, SOCIAL-JUSTICE ACTIVIST

I am not my hair

“I was fortunate to be raised by both my parents, a rarity in my community. A high stake was placed on freedom of expression in our house, because my mom was so afraid of losing one of her children in this ‘dangerous’ neighbourhood called Beacon Valley.”

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• JANINE ‘BLAQPEARL’ VAN ROOY

Janine van Rooy is a musician and social-justice activist, and is passionate about youth empowerment and working towards positive change in South Africa. She has featured in print and electronic media, and her music is featured on Channel O, MTV and YouTube. She is actively involved in the Vrygrond community and uses the arts to empower youths in prison.

anine van Rooy, better known as Blaqpearl, always knew that she was unique. But the pressure to conform was huge. She was a chubby little girl with kroes (curly) hair growing up in a neighbourhood where dodging bullets was par for the course. She struggled to understand why she had to spend such a lot of time grooming her hair, why she was constantly afraid to be on the streets or why she had to look like those girls on television. “The media played a big role in my awareness of negative stereotypes,” says Janine. “There was also a lot of domestic violence in many houses in our community. It saddened me profoundly.” Then one day, at the age of 12, when she came from church (her parents were staunch Apostolics) she burst into tears,

telling her parents that she didn’t want to live any more – that this world was way too evil and painful to live in. “Instead of giving me a spanking to snap me out of my silliness, my parents sat me down and we talked about it. I went to my bedroom and started writing what I was feeling and it was a relief. That was how I dealt with things happening to me. I think that’s how my writing was born. I made an identity shift on that day. I wasn’t a tomboy any more; I was a woman. Quite a discovery for a girl of 12 years of age.” Life on the streets of Beacon Valley wasn’t easy. Many of her friends were raised in single-parent households, but in the Van Rooy family both parents were present. Janine’s two grandmothers were strong figures involved in fighting for women’s and workers’ rights, and her father was

also involved in the struggle against apartheid. He was a strong presence in her life when she was little. “We were raised with a lot of political consciousness and had lots of sociopolitical conversations. I was exposed to our church order from the age of six when I started attending Sunday school. It also kept me off the streets and out of trouble. We still pray together as a family and my mother reminds me to pray all the time, no matter where in the world I am.” Janine attended Beacon View Primary School, went to Oval North High (which had the technical subjects she wanted to do), then decided to change schools when she was in Grade 10. She wanted a new career direction with a more academic approach and moved to Arcadia High School in Bonteheuwel, where she

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JANINE VAN ROOY POET, RAPPER, MUSICIAN, SOCIAL-JUSTICE ACTIVIST

matriculated. In 2004 she graduated from the University of the Western Cape with a BA Degree, majoring in psychology and linguistics. But it wasn’t all academics and grades in the Van Rooy household; it was also a place of theatrical performances. The kids would bring their friends over to make music, dance and practise for upcoming events, particularly her late brother, Mario, who was already performing at hip-hop and community events with his crew at the time. They made their own beats, and composed their own rap songs, lyrics and poems. Janine recalls herself standing on their coffee table with a brush or anything resembling a microphone pretending she was on stage singing. (From the archives)

Mario was a hip-hop artist and a “hardcore commentator on the things that

“My purpose in life is clear. I just want to contribute to awareness and healing. My work is honest and sincere. Our people are beautiful and have a lot of potential, even though they are overwhelmed with challenges.”

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he saw in our neighbourhood”. His stage name was Mr Devious. At 17 he was way ahead of his time. Janine says he played a very important role in her self-awareness and development as an artist. Mario’s story is one of artistic integrity, of a social activist who reached into the hearts of youth at risk in the prisons and ganglands of the Cape Flats. But Mario was killed on the streets of Mitchell’s Plain in 2004. He died violently at the hands of gangsters – the very same youth to whom he had dedicated his life’s work. He left behind his family, his wife and three children. Janine was devastated, but determined to carry forward his legacy by establishing herself as an artist in her own right. Hanging around Mario and his crew exposed Janine to hip-hop culture and consciousness. Naturally, she wanted a cool stage name too and together they brainstormed it. She had just finished high school and needed something that described and defined her. Something ambitious and visionary. Something like a jewel, but also with sociopolitical meaning. She came to the conclusion that she was not white enough, but not black enough either.

However, she identified more with being black, and so her stage name became BlaqPearl. “I later became exposed to my Khoi heritage. Identity is very important. That’s where the ‘q’ in BlaqPearl comes from. It’s more of a click sound reminiscent from the way my ancestors spoke. “Soon after my 21st birthday, I shaved off all my hair. When I reflect on my upbringing with all these superficial ideals in the media of what beauty is and how many other women still define themselves by their hair, being bald feels very liberating. Now it has become part of who I am, as well as my image as a musician. “My purpose in life is clear. I just want to contribute to awareness and healing. My work is honest and sincere. Our people are beautiful and have a lot of potential, even though they are overwhelmed with challenges. I love people, psychology and music, and I love keeping it real. “My debut album, released in September 2011, was called Against All Odds – a reflection of the content of my life. When I die I want my tombstone to read: ‘Here lies BlaqPearl. She wanted to know more about humanity.’”

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HEIDI EDSON YOUTH DEVELOPER

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Changing communities

one kid at a time “I grew up In Mitchell’s Plain. I was born here, schooled here and had my head screwed on right here.”

H

EI I E

ON

Heidi Edson attended primary and high school in Mitchell’s Plain. She has extensive experience in the field of corporate social investment. Currently, she is manager of corporate social initiatives for GrandWest Casino and Entertainment World, and is a director of the GrandWest Cape Cultural and Heritage Foundation. Heidi is actively involved in the Mitchell’s Plain community and she is particularly interested in helping young people to achieve their potential.

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eidi Edson is the proverbial bright spark. She passed Matric with distinction, but sadly didn’t have the means to go to university. However, she hasn’t allowed this to hold her back in life. A strong emphasis on family, courage and the importance of education was instilled in her by her mother, who remains an inspiration. “Growing up in Mitchell’s Plain we experienced tight-knit communities and hardship,” says Heidi. “Neighbours would lend a helping hand wherever needed and communities were safe enough for children to play in the parks till sunset. We spent a lot of time at the community swimming pool, the town centre – which was a hub

of spaza shops – and the library, where we read and referenced books for our research projects (even though there were only two computers available to us at the time). Weekends were spent at Westgate Mall, watching movies or enjoying the live shows they put together. “In those years, our teachers were role models who taught us discipline, direction and pride. We looked up to them with respect.” Heidi holds one of her teachers in particularly high esteem, crediting him for much of her success in life. He was her standard five teacher at Ridgeville Primary, Mr Atkins. “Ridgeville Primary formed who I am. It’s where I got my base and it equipped me with the right attitude. Mr Gasant and Mr Atkins

worked hard to keep children from leaving for schools like Livingstone and other so-called ‘better’ schools. They wanted to retain the talent in Mitchell’s Plain.” Heidi loved the academic side of school and all her spare time was spent at Westridge Library. She says that what the high school lacked in career-development opportunities it made up for in caring for the kids. “Good teachers should be celebrated; they are the real role models in life. And role models in Mitchell’s Plain are few and far between. “These days kids often look up to gangsters and celebrities as role models, but the ‘success’ these people have achieved rarely lasts. Gangsters end up in prison,

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HEIDI EDSON YOUTH DEVELOPER

and celebrity fame is shallow and fleeting. Kids don’t appreciate the importance of places like Rocklands and Tafelsig in the broader history of South Africa. “It concerns me that nobody is addressing the issue of career options in our schools. Youngsters don’t realise that they can apply for bursaries and, when they do study, they often follow careers that aren’t ideal for them simply because they don’t know enough about career options. I certainly didn’t. I’m fortunate that my teachers instilled a good work ethic and attitude in me, and it’s this that helped me to succeed, despite not having a tertiary education.” o Nic aree a ei i Bottom e Jo es Nic aree a

ei i

Heidi secretly desired to become a lawyer. However, she finished a computer

“I’m fortunate that my teachers instilled a good work ethic and attitude in me, and it’s this that helped me to succeed, despite not having a tertiary education.”

course instead, landing an administrative job at Old Mutual. She then moved to the Cape Town branch of PricewaterhouseCoopers, where she was employed as an assistant marketing coordinator. Her big break came when chairman Trevor Petersen asked her to assess the needs of a cricket team in Khayelitsha. The passion with which she embraced this task quickly led to her being appointed as the Western Cape corporate social initiatives officer for the company. In 2008, Heidi joined GrandWest as the manager of corporate social initiatives. “By then I wanted to focus solely on the needs of communities,” she explains. “I’m committed to making a difference in schools, especially grade R. My 10-yearold son has a problem with literacy and this feeds my desire to make a difference, and to help schools make a difference for other such children. “Much of my private time is spent teaching people the skills needed to gain access to the big corporates and tap into their funding. There’s funding available, but no guiding hand to steer these

resources in the right direction. Cheques are often handed over but there is no follow-up. Real collaboration with communities is not happening. We need to involve communities in more projects. Now is the time to stop talking, and to start implementing and taking ownership. I think I fell into the right job.” Heidi believes that people need always to remember the history of Mitchell’s Plain and the community members who changed it for the better. “Role models are required in schools to instil a love of learning and to show learners that the world is their oyster. In this way, we’ll bring back the pride we all once felt for our environment and surrounding communities. Mitchell’s Plain will always be embedded deeply in my heart. It paved the way for a career I love and is the essence of who I am. The history of Mitchell’s Plain was forged by our parents and our grandparents, but the future is being decided by us for the benefit of our children and grandchildren. We are the current custodians of this rich culture that deserves to be embraced and shared for the sake of generations to come.”

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MARK KLEINSCHMIDT TEACHER, BUSINESSMAN

Tuned into Mark

“If you ask me where Mitchell’s Plain should be positioned in the history of South Africa, the answer is really quite simple. There are three coloured homelands – Australia, Canada and … drum roll … Mitchell’s Plain. We all have family there.”

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t’s almost impossible to confine Mark Kleinschmidt’s story in three pages. An entire book would be more apt.

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Mark taught in Mitchell’s Plain for 12 years, but he is better known for his role in establishing Radio Plain at the Mitchell’s Plain Town Centre in 1985. He went on to establish Radio West at Westgate Mall. Mark is a founder member of the Renaissance Drama Society and served on the first reference library of community leaders of Mitchell’s Plain. He also serves on the Mitchell’s Plain Education Trust.

few resorts that people of colour could go to during the apartheid years.

Mark was born in District Six. His parents moved to Crawford, where he went to St Mark’s Primary School, one of three primary schools he attended. While he was in standard one, the family moved from Crawford to Retreat, where Mark’s dad managed hotels and movie houses. His mom, Grace, was a pillar of strength in his life. Sadly, his parents divorced when he was just 10 years old.

Art played a prominent part in Mark’s life. In matric he landed the role of Stephano, the drunken butler in the Education Department’s production of Shakespeare’s The Tempest, staged at Spes Bona High School. The following year he starred as Demetrius the lover in the EOAN Group production of A Midsummer’s Night Dream. At the EOAN Group he worked with theatre greats like Denise Newman, Royston Stoffels, May Abrahamse, and Ronnie Theys. After completing teacher training at Hewat, he started teaching at Zeekoevlei Primary in 1980.

In 1977 he matriculated from Alexander Sinton High, at the height of the student unrest and protest action. As a pupil he used to stare across at Hewat Teacher’s Training College, because he so dearly wanted to be there already.

However, the stage beckoned louder than the classroom and, in his final year at Hewat, Mark simultaneously landed a job as the entertainment manager at Manresa Holiday Farm Resort, a weekend job he kept for 14 years. It was one of the

He started establishing himself as a businessman and remembers, in the early days of the radio station, selling advertising spots to the businesses located at the Town Centre. He remembers the mobilisation of schools during the height of the

But this was not enough for Mark. In 1985, he started training at Radio Good Hope and was seconded by the Department of Education and Culture to present the drama-reading programme to schools in the Cape Peninsula. He also started the first in-house community radio station, Radio Plain, which broadcast from the Mitchell’s Plain Town Centre, securing sponsorship for a mobile caravan unit as well as sound equipment free of charge.

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MARK KLEINSCHMIDT TEACHER, BUSINESSMAN

unrest, and conducting interviews with various political leaders including Alan Boesak, Tony Leon, Thabo Mbeki and FW de Klerk. The broadcasts sent subliminal messages to detainees and the radio station grew in popularity, becoming involved with many community projects. The launch of the United Democratic Front at the Rocklands Civic Centre and the day he introduced Nelson Mandela to the people of Mitchell’s Plain remain indelible highlights for Mark.

(From the archives)

Unfortunately, the station closed down due to turbulence at the Town Centre in 1994/5. Not one to being disheartened, Mark started Radio West, which operated from Westgate Mall. “Bush Radio trained with Radio West,” says Mark. “It was also a time when we needed a sound that sounded right. Clarence Ford, now at Heart 104.9FM, always cautioned us to be vigilant about sound. He said that mainstream radio stations wanted us because we were ‘white-sounding Coloureds’.

“The happiest moment of my life was sharing the stage with Nelson Mandela in Tafelsig. I lifted his hand and we sang with one voice: ‘One Mandela.’”

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We then embarked on a voice search for students, and groomed youngsters such as Irma Groepies [Heart 104.9FM] and Rouvaun Smit [ex-KFM DJ and horse-racing commentator], who later joined the local radio stations. We used this opportunity as a launch pad to something better. Our payoff line was: ‘We’re just plain radio.’ I’m also just plain Mark from Mitchell’s Plain.” After managing the Station Plaza, Mark was head-hunted by the Ellerine Group to manage The Palms Décor and Lifestyle Centre in Woodstock, taking over the reins on 1 September 2006. His latest accomplishment was his nomination by Minister in the Presidency, Trevor Manuel, to the Board of Trustees of the Mitchell’s Plain Role Model Bursary Fund. Here, his fiscal expertise and past relationship with Mitchell’s Plain businesses and schools have put him in good stead to ensure that no deserving learner is deprived of a tertiary education through lack of money. Since the launch of the fund on 16 June 2011, it has raised in excess of R100 000, and hopefully the first recipients will receive bursaries in early 2012. “The lowest point in the existence of Mitchell’s Plain was the time of the

Station Strangler,” says Mark. “Do you know that he actually applied to Radio Plain to be a presenter? It was a time of innocence lost. We started the Dream Trust Fund, spearheaded by Lionel Maxim, cabinet-maker-turned-author, which assisted the victims’ parents with groceries. There was a renewed sense of camaraderie between people, however, and we stood together. “I hope that I will be remembered as a good teacher and philanthropist. That’s where my heart still is – as a community worker. After leaving the teaching profession, I bought a franchise, the Shoelettes branded sports footwear store at the Station Plaza, as a nest egg. Working again full time in Mitchell’s Plain as the Plaza Centre manager and as a businessperson enabled me to become involved, and share my community and business skills. I can make a meaningful contribution towards the urban-renewal programme introduced by government to address crime and grime at the Mitchell’s Plain Town Centre. The happiest moment of my life was sharing the stage with Nelson Mandela in Tafelsig. I lifted his hand and we sang with one voice: ‘One Mandela.’ Lekker!”

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MOOSA AYSEN RELIGIOUS LEADER, HISTORIAN

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Protector of the faith M •

OO A AY EN

Moosa Aysen was born in Potchefstroom on 29 March 1945. He moved to Cape Town in 1970 and to Mitchell’s Plain in 1976. He was a founder member of the Mitchell’s Plain Islamic Society and the Westridge Rugby Football Club. Moosa was also the treasurer of the Westridge Sports Board of Control.

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oosa Aysen is the quintessential gentleman – softspoken, in a pinstripe suit, red tie and polished shoes. He’s been in Mitchell’s Plain from the start. In fact, he was one of the first people who moved into the neighbourhood. He still lives in the same house and smiles when he recounts the names of the artisans who helped add all the extras to his home. “I will never move from here. Every alteration in this house is a historical piece of the development of my family and my life in Mitchell’s Plain – even the pathway. It’s got to do with friendship, not wealth. Go and look at the beautiful houses in Portlands… Friends do these things for one another.” He’s a walking, talking encyclopaedia of slave ancestry, Malay history and the Muslim faith. Moosa traces his ancestry back to the slaves who came to the Cape

“You get a liar, you get a bigger liar and then you get a politician. I am not a politician; I am a problem-solver. If this government knew how to do it, they would have done it a long time ago.” from Indonesia and other Southeast Asian countries, labelled Matrastrappers. He was born in Potchefstroom and says that, to his knowledge, his great grandmother was the first French convert to Islam in South Africa. Both his parents passed away at an early age, and he became his “own parent”. Moosa matriculated and got a certificate in draftsmanship. After getting married in Kimberley, at the age of 27, he moved to Salt River, lived with a family there, while looking for a place to buy. Back then, in 1976, he had two choices: Atlantis or Mitchells Plain, both designated coloured townships. Atlantis was too far from his work and Mitchell’s Plain had a waiting list as long as his arm. But, he got lucky. Within a week he moved into the house where he

still lives today. “No one wanted to move to Mitchell’s Plain, and that’s why I got a call so quickly. “Mitchell’s Plain was a well-designed area. It had lots of green spaces and parks in which the kids could play. The houses were guarded because they were empty. But believe me when I tell you that nobody wanted to move here.” Moosa then started to immerse himself in community development. There were only 17 Muslim families in the area where he lived. These families came together and formed the Westridge Islamic Society. People started to get to know one another. They played rugby and other sports together and soon they formed a ratepayers’ association and a sports board of control, of which he was the

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MOOSA AYSEN RELIGIOUS LEADER, HISTORIAN

first treasurer, a position he held for three years. “We held regular meetings with the city council and every time we complained about something, they came to fix it.” But, like most people, the Muslim community at large did not want to move to Mitchell’s Plain. Moosa and the Islamic Society were asked to help make the area more attractive to this community by providing Islamic infrastructure. “The Westridge Islamic Society bought four plots of land for R2 each. We couldn’t let the offer pass. There are 21 mosques in Mitchell’s Plain today, 11 of which were built by the Mitchell’s Plain Islamic Society.

(From the archives)

“Today the New Apostolic church in Tafelsig is the biggest church in Cape Town. If it weren’t for the different religious communities, Mitchell’s Plain would not have become what it is today.”

“The Westridge Islamic Society bought four plots of land for R2 each. We couldn’t let the offer pass. There are 21 mosques in Mitchell’s Plain today.”

Moosa beams with pride when he talks about the 16 completed projects in which he has been involved. It’s taken them 31 years to build mosques and madrasahs all over Mitchell’s Plain. It was a community effort. “The Muslim dictum: ‘You can’t eat unless your neighbour has food,’ is essential. And that’s how our communities survive.” He firmly believes in the power of the community. “You have to draw on all the skills at your disposal. You can’t just have a pastor or an imam. You need the brickie, the lawyer, the builder, the painter, the gardener and the electrician. That’s how you do it. And that is why I will never leave Mitchell’s Plain. I’m no hero. Everyone who is called a hero or an icon stands on the shoulders of other people. Without the community you are nothing.” Moosa gets a faraway look in his eyes when he remembers a time, 20 years ago to be exact, when he could park his car outside and leave it unlocked, and no one would touch it. “But then people started to want more material things. Wives started to work so that the family could have a second

car and other material goods. That was the start of kids being left home alone. Sleutelgatkinders. Things changed. Crime is driven by greed.” Was there ever a time when he thought Mitchell’s Plain had hit an all-time low? “I can’t think of any. We always had problems, but we solved them or sought out solutions. Sometimes it takes longer than you anticipate, but, if you pull together, you can.” He is, however, deeply disturbed by the state of South African schools. “Broken windows and the destruction of school buildings sadden me. Vandals from our own areas are responsible for the damage. Where is the destruction coming from?” Government’s seeming inability to empower communities to pull themselves up by the bootstraps befuddles Moosa the fixer and builder of communities and structures. “We had such strong communities in the 80s and 90s; why can’t we do it again? But you see … you get a liar, you get a bigger liar and then you get a politician. I am not a politician; I am a problem-solver. If this government knew how to do it, they would have done it a long time ago.”

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JAMES BHEMGEE OPERA SINGER

Reaching the high “I’m a soloist now. People are taking me seriously.”

J

ames Bhemgee is better at singing than speaking. When he was a little boy he used to stutter, but once he started belting out a song, he felt invincible. As an adult he is still painfully shy and uncomfortable, and would rather pop his CD in the player than talk to people about himself. • JA E B E

EE

James’s music career started at the age of 23, when his singing talent was discovered by Mrs Angelique Fuhr, who was influential in his development. He trained with world-renowned opera singers here and abroad. James has received numerous awards at Cape Town eisteddfods, and in the Malay Choir competitions as performer and choral master. He is currently a member of the local Three Tenors and was the winner of A’s ot a e t .

James and his younger brother Jonathan never had the privilege of knowing and experiencing the love of their biological parents. His mom, Frances Bhemgee, gave birth to the boys in Worcester and then gave them away. “We weren’t given up for adoption. She gave us away. She moved to Gugulethu to be near to my father, Cedric Schilder. However, he stayed in Vrygrond, where she would stay on and off. He was a seaman and wasn’t

notes

around a lot. It’s fair to say that they just didn’t have time to raise children with all the other stuff going on in their lives. “We were raised by Marie and Robert Oosthuizen in Kalksteenfontein. The crazy bit is that my mom would sometimes come to visit us, and we would sit in the lounge with her while our ‘grootmaak’ parents hovered in the background. When my mom asked us how we were, we were too scared to say we missed her or that we wanted to stay with her for fear of hurting our parents or, worse still, getting a beating for being ungrateful. They were hard-working, God-fearing people and cared for us the best way they could.” There wasn’t a lot of money going around and James had to leave school

after standard six. Although he loved school, he remembers wryly how the kids used to tease him mercilessly about his stuttering. “When I was in standard one or two there was another boy who could sing very well. He could flawlessly and passionately sing the hymn ‘Lei My Troue Herder’ (‘Guide Me O Thou Great Redeemer’) and he got all the girls! Not a bad move, I thought… He sang in a certain style and I then started singing the same hymn opera-style. It worked the same magic. “I was 10 years old when I started singing loudly at assemblies because I realised I had a good voice. It just so happened that the principal wanted to know who was singing like that, and all the children shouted: ‘It’s James, Sir!’ I had to go to the

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front and sing ‘Oh, Christmas Tree’. My stuttering disappeared when I sang. I don’t know how, but it did. Then I started harmonising with other people without being taught how to do it. Harmonising gave me goose bumps. I loved listening to Elvis Presley, The King’s Messengers Quartet and the New Apostolic Church choir. I joined the choir and started singing bass, even though I was a tenor, because I enjoyed it so much.

(From the archives)

“But then came the riots. We didn’t know about politics in Kalksteenfontein, but if we went to Bonteheuwel, there was politics and political activity everywhere. We started using the riots as an excuse to stay away from school. The periods we were away got longer and longer. Something had to give, and it was our school work. Parents started getting worried, and my parents put their foot down and said if I didn’t want to go to school I had to go and work.

“Harmonising gave me goose bumps. I loved listening to Elvis Presley, The King’s Messengers Quartet and the New Apostolic Church choir.”

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“I was 16 years old when I started working at Raydene Fashions. I worked there for a year and then took a job at the council. Working for the council was seen as the lowest job ever! I had to go because my dad arranged it through our deacon. And who says no to the deacon? I worked on the rubbish trucks and swept the streets. It was a relief to be working in Salt River and Mowbray, far away from where I stayed. I always feared that my friends or someone I knew would see me. Oh, the shame! “When working in Mowbray I would sing while collecting the rubbish. Gé Korsten was my favourite. I had an ulterior motive with my singing. White people loved opera and I wished that one of them would hear me and ‘discover’ me. And one did! When Angelique Fuhr heard someone singing one day she thought it was a student in the area – lots of UCT students stayed around there. She took me under her wing and introduced me to people who could help me with voice training to further my career. I had many opportunities that I used and as many that I let slip through my fingers. I couldn’t crack it at UCT, for example, because even though I could sing I had a hard time studying stuff at university level after not even

finishing high school. But hey, hindsight is 20-20.” James came to live in Mitchell’s Plain four years ago. After tasting international fame and performing on stages here and abroad, things went downhill for him. He joined the Spes Bona Klopse and has been coaching them for the last five years. In Mitchell’s Plain he found a resting place for his soul; a space he can call home. A big part of his heart still belongs to Kalksteenfontein and he’ll never forget it, but he had to get away and start restructuring his life. “Mitchell’s Plain has a little bit of everything. There is gangsterism, but it’s not the norm. There’s order here. And integration. We’ve got Pakistanis, Somalians and Zimbabweans. We are the United Nations.” Things are on the up now for James Bhemgee. Since he won South Africa’s Got Talent in 2011, things started changing for him. “In South Africa the best is not good enough. You need someone with the right connections to give you a push. I perform at corporate functions; in concerts; on Huisgenoot Skouspel, Noot Vir Noot and Starlight Classics; and I’ve toured with the Dutch violinist, conductor, and composer, André Rieu. “I’m a soloist now. People are taking me seriously.”

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VENETE KLEIN BUSINESS WOMAN

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Businesswoman of note “My experiences in the 70s and 80s made me realise that our future and the overall success of our hard-earned democracy are completely dependent on the development of our people.”

W • VENE E LEIN

Venete is a financial powerhouse, humanitarian, mother and bridge-builder all rolled up into one formidable package. Venete was named Businesswoman of the Year in 2009, and holds a number of qualifications from MIT, INSEAD, IMD and Wits University. She is the vice president of BUSA, chairperson of AllPay Consolidated, a board member of the Rural Housing Loan Fund, and a trustee of the ABSA Foundation and the Community Impact Trust.

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e moved to Mitchell’s Plain when I was 16 years old. My parents had, until then, rented properties all of their married lives. The Mitchell’s Plain property was thus our very first ‘owned’ property. We were so proud of our new home. It was a maisonette, but it was ours. “I am the middle child, with an older sister and a younger brother flanking me. Growing up, my sister and I never had the luxury of our own bedrooms. We shared a double bunk in the lounge. I was 11 years old when I got my own bed to sleep in. “We often moved from place to place during my years at school. We were one of the first families to move into Westridge.

Settling into Mitchell’s Plain was challenging at first, because it was so different from the southern suburbs where I spent my early years growing up. I had to travel to Lansdowne every day until I finished my matric at Oaklands High. In no time at all, however, the neighbours bonded with each other to form a very tightknit community. “What we had in common was the fact that many ‘owned’ their first homes in Mitchell’s Plain. This created a bond so strong that, almost 40 years on, my mom, who now lives in Pretoria with us, is still in regular contact with most of the Mitchell’s Plain neighbours. They became like family to us. I lived in Westridge for five years before I got married at the age

of 21 to the proverbial boy next door. He was from Grassy Park, where we had lived before moving to Mitchell’s Plain. “Although the struggle was the right approach to dismantling apartheid, it took its toll on my family. The 80s were rough. My husband worked in Lentegeur, where his company was building a school. The area was colloquially known as Cowboy Town. Because of his fair skin, he was mistaken for being white and became a victim of the uprising at the time. On one occasion he was pulled out of his car and almost killed. The car was completely wrecked. I was shocked that my own people did this, but those who recognised him also rescued him. A week later, however, he was stoned again on his way to

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VENETE KLEIN BUSINESSWOMAN

visit his family. That was when we decided that we needed to move to another area, as he had become a target based on skin colour. It left an indelible mark on my spirit and I desperately wanted to get away from it all. So we moved to Grassy Park. “Having moved my family to safety, I continued to work in Mitchell’s Plain, where I was responsible for the local branch of the Natal Building Society. I was angry because my life had changed. What about the others who were caught in the crossfire and could not get out? Schools were being burnt down and the streets became warzones. I will never forget having to work my way through big rocks in the road, with casspirs all over the place.

Bottom Ve ete ith o th A rica Presi e t Jaco ma

“Even though I was by now living in Grassy Park, I witnessed this every day travelling to and from work. I was shot

“I guess these experiences drove me to excel in each role I was assigned, as I worked my way up the corporate ladder, from the lowest job in the bank to heading up one of the biggest retail banks in South Africa.”

at on more than one occasion. I did everything in my power to get away from these memories and hardships. I was at a very low point but, while disruptive, this turbulent time grew me as a person. With age and hindsight I came to understand the people’s anger. “I guess these experiences drove me to excel in each role that I was assigned, as I worked my way up the corporate ladder, from the lowest job in the bank to heading up one of the biggest retail banks in South Africa. “During my time in the financial-services sector, I’ve pioneered many causes in South Africa. The issue of tik abuse, particularly in Mitchell’s Plain, is of great concern to me. I commissioned worldrenowned playwright Lara Foot-Newton to write a stage play about the lives of young people affected by this scourge. Hours were spent researching with families and educators in Mitchell’s Plain in order to produce the play, Addicted to Life. This production ran for two weeks at the Baxter and the cast travelled to various schools in the peninsula. About 40 000 learners viewed the production – that’s how you change the health and wellbeing of communities.

“Being an activist at heart, I have often challenged decisions made by corporate South Africa and our government. I believe that we cannot be complacent as long as poverty, inequality and job creation are not dealt with. I have always challenged gatherings I addressed to become involved with current issues being addressed by government. I believe that Capetonians should really take advantage of their proximity to parliament, and sit in on public hearings when the laws of the land are being debated and drafted. We need to make our voices heard. “My experiences in the 70s and 80s made me realise that our future and the overall success of our hard-earned democracy are completely dependent on the development of our people. In every role that I have held in the corporate arena, my core focus has always been to grow, develop and nurture the talent that I have been entrusted with. There is a saying by Isaac Newton that best captures how I feel today: ‘If I have seen further it is only by standing on the shoulders of giants.’ “The giant in this case is the community of Westridge.”

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RYLAND FISHER JOURNALIST, AUTHOR

In my book of life

I am the editor “I was a pacifist forced to become an activist to oppose apartheid.”

I

• RYLAN FI

ER

Ryland Fisher is the editor of he Ne A e and has more than 30 years’ experience in the media industry. He is the chairman of the Cape Town Festival, which he initiated while editor of the a e Times. Ryland formerly headed up the School of Journalism at the Cape Peninsula University of Technology, is the CEO of Sekunjalo Media Holdings and runs a consultancy, Ryland Fisher Communications. He is also the author of two books.

always wanted to be South Africa’s biggest-selling novelist but realised at a point that it might be difficult to achieve. So I became a journalist instead. At the time, we were in the midst of the apartheid years and I realised that the story of those involved in the struggle was not being properly represented. This motivated me to use the power of the pen in an attempt to tell our people’s stories. This is still what motivates me today: to provide a voice for the people who would not have a voice otherwise.” While Ryland Fisher was studying journalism at Rhodes University, his parents moved to Mitchell’s Plain from Hanover Park in 1979. Ryland was the secretary of the Hanover Park Youth Movement and this added to his reluctance to move

with them. He eventually joined them two years later. Ryland started his journalistic career as a reporter at the Cape Herald newspaper. He met his wife in Mitchell’s Plain and they are still happily married after 25 years. In Mitchell’s Plain Ryland became the secretary of the Mitchell’s Plain Youth Movement. It was his job to coordinate the six branches. The young man was overworked and, to crown it all, he had no car to get to all the branches – from Tafelsig to Westridge to Eastridge, and so on. When the Cape Youth Congress was formed in 1983 he was elected as an executive member. “As young activists we were driven by a greater cause. Everybody I interacted

with was prepared to die for the struggle to secure freedom. Some were prepared to kill. I was prepared to die; not to kill. That’s why I didn’t go for military training. I was a pacifist forced to become an activist to oppose apartheid. “Those were important days in my life. I learned lots of lessons, for example about sexism and all the other ‘isms’, and about fighting for the underdog, that I still apply today. In this period, at the beginning of 1984, I left the Cape Herald, which was owned by the Argus, to go and work at Grassroots, a community newspaper. I was working for R150 to R250 per month – that was the level of commitment that we had.

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“When we were organising the youth we also gave them an opportunity to perform, act, play music, and so forth. We tried to create career opportunities for them. Vicky Sampson is an example of this. She used to perform at rallies. When we had no programme, we instructed her to just sing! We had lots of fun too. There were loads of meetings. I remember on 8 January 1985 we drove to Strandfontein Pavilion to listen to the ANC on Radio Freedom.”

(From the archives)

1985 was a big year in Ryland’s life. He got married, had a baby, was detained and his savings ran out. It was also a turning point in the struggle. Even though a national state of emergency was declared, the protests continued. Marches started off peacefully and soon ended in chaos because people refused to disperse after being told to do so. It had a major effect on Ryland. He was a journalist during the day and an activist by night.

“As young activists we were driven by a greater cause. Everybody I interacted with was prepared to die for the struggle to secure freedom. Some were prepared to kill.”

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“It was difficult to be objective. You had no choice but to oppose apartheid. I would leave the Cape Herald at five o’clock to join my colleagues at the Grassroots office.” Enter Mike Norton, a fellow journalist who moved to Mitchell’s Plain from Johannesburg. He was one of the first journalists to be imprisoned for flatly refusing to reveal his sources. “Together, we worked in community structures. We laid out pages, wrote articles and at 11 o’clock at night we had to dash across the parade to catch the last train to Mitchell’s Plain. It was only after Mike’s death, when his family came to the funeral, that I found out Mike was White. That was the kind of nonracialism we had. Mike had a profound influence on my life.” As did the late Jonny Issel. “Jonny Issel founded Grassroots. He led us in all kinds of anti-Establishment protests – hospital, electricity, and bus boycotts, the Leyland workers’ strike, red-meat, Wilson-Rowntree and Fatti’s & Moni’s boycotts. The unity between workers’ unions and communities was amazing. Jonny taught us that you need to be a leader on all fronts – sports, church, work, mosque, and so forth.

“In the mid-80s we were involved in the political leadership of Mitchell’s Plain. The area was, like the University of the Western Cape, a dumping ground for coloured people. The UDF was launched in Mitchell’s Plain at the insistence of Jonny Issel. This was a massive achievement – launching a nonracial movement in this coloured homeland! People made a major statement about the future society we wanted to live in. That was our vision. “Then we lost to the National Party in the first democratic election. It was the one time I was ashamed to be from Mitchell’s Plain. When we activists became black, our people remained coloured. We grew beyond our people. When we organised against apartheid, we assumed everyone was for us. When we mobilised against the tricameral elections and the people of Mitchell’s Plain didn’t vote, we misread it as a vote for us. We were wrong. “After obtaining our freedom this entire country should have gone for counselling. We were all pretty messed up. That’s why things flare up so quickly and turn into racial incidents. We went from conflict to reconciliation and we missed a few steps. I understand this with hindsight.”

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MEL JONES ENTERTAINER, RADIO PERSONALITY

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Funny girl M •

EL JONE

Mel is the product of the Cape Comedy Collective’s Comedy Lab workshop, and burst into the limelight with her unique confidence and sexy style. She has appeared on SABC3’s Comedy Showcase, the Phat Joe Show, Mind the Gap and the Heavyweight Comedy Jam. Her shows Doing It for the Money and Still Doing It with Tracy Klass have been Cape Town hits since 2003. Mel currently produces the Phat Joe Morning Show on Heart 104.9FM.

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el Jones never thought of herself as funny, but noticed people laughing at things she said. Today she is a single mother, by choice, is involved in producing a popular radio show and does stand-up comedy, relying on her life experiences to inform her repertoire.

“I never thought life was difficult, it’s just the way things were. I was born in District Six in 1973. We stayed in McQuilton Flats on Upper Bloem Street for the first six years of my life. In 1979 we moved to Portlands in Mitchell’s Plain and I still live here. My mom was a shop assistant and my dad a machine operator. They were married for 42 years. My dad passed away four years ago. I am very attached to my mother and we share a very close bond. In hindsight it wasn’t hard. I didn’t

“In the same way that being a single mom doesn’t define me, Mitchell’s Plain also doesn’t define me. It’s where I’m from, not who I am.”

use drugs and I wasn’t abused. Other people had a car; we didn’t. I had a normal teenage life and normal teenage rebellions. I developed a sense of humour to deal with life’s hardships.” Mel attended four different schools: Woodville Primary, Buckingham Primary, Mondale High and Portland High, where she matriculated. Schools were far from their homes, hence the moving around. When she had to start standard two, Buckingham Primary School was built in their area and she went there.

“Just remember, it’s not to be mistaken with Buckingham Palace,” jokes Mel. Teenage pregnancies were a real social issue and Mel was acutely aware of these. Drugs and other social ills were also eroding the fabric of Mitchell’s Plain society. But this gutsy young woman always knew that she would make something of herself. After matric she studied Marketing and Sales Management at the Peninsula Technikon. “I was good at being the class clown. And playing klawerjas was high on my student priority list too.

“I was good at being the class clown. And playing klawerjas was high on my student priority list too.”

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“Throughout my life people laughed at what I said all the time. So I guess I was funny. It became my job. I started doing comedy when I was 26. I’m a product of the Cape Comedy Collective’s Comedy Lab. I had stint at the beauty counters of Clicks too – not as a comedienne though! I fell pregnant when I was 23 and decided on raising my son alone – my choice. I had no support from the dad, but that’s not my definer. I am a single mom who rose above it and got on with my life.

(From the archives)

“Throughout my life people laughed at what I said all the time. I guess I was funny. It became my job.”

“My comedic material is personal. I derive it from my daily experiences. My dad was ridiculously funny and my son also has a wicked sense of humour. My first boyfriend was fair-skinned and I am very dark. In coloured communities this was and still is, in many families, a huge nono. His mother was not too happy about my dark skin. It made me wary of relationships. I’m the husband-trainer. You’ll date me and I’ll then hand you over to someone to marry. So I’m single and happily so, and I can make fun of it because my experience taught me that I can. “You always have to read your audience before you deliver your material, for example if you’re talking about the Cape Flats. That’s if I do it. Not everyone gets or relates to it. I certainly don’t think of myself as a role model naturally, but if a

school invites me to speak, I think about why I was asked to do so. I try to inspire rather than seeing myself as a role model. “In the same way that being a single mom doesn’t define me, Mitchell’s Plain also doesn’t define me. It’s where I’m from, not who I am. You define yourself through your actions. I am a funny, smart, incredible individual with loads of potential I haven’t even tapped into yet. “My wish is that we can move towards an empowered generation of people. I want people to see that Mitchell’s Plain, like any community, has negative and positive attributes. We don’t want handouts; we want empowerment. More prominent people should emerge to show how powerful, positive engagement can change a community.”

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CEE-JAY WILLIAMS COMMUNITY BUILDER

Rebel with a cause C ee-Jay Williams prides himself on being the eternal outsider, the proverbial thorn in the side, the one who will never be coopted into any system he does not want to be a part of. But there’s nothing clichéd about Cee-Jay Williams.

• EE JAY

ILLIA

Cee-Jay began his involvement in community service at the tender age of 17, and he has served the Mitchell’s Plain community in various capacities – socially, politically and in business. He served on the committee of the Westridge Residents’ Association and has been the chairperson for the past nine years. He was the first chairperson of the Mitchell’s Plain Business Chamber, the first interim chairperson of the local branch of the Cape Town Chamber of Commerce and Industry, and is an executive member of the Greater Cape Town Civic Alliance.

“I am of mixed origin. My father was a labourer; my mom was the daughter of a well-to-do family. The negro (my dad), who jumped ship, married the boss’s daughter and her family summarily disowned my mom. They divorced when I was two years old. “I had to leave school in Standard Four and started working as an ice-cream boy. Up until the age of 16 I Iived in abject poverty. Between the ages of 12 and 16 I got involved in church welfare organisations working in Retreat and surrounds.

“What I know for sure is that we are not just known for drugs, tik and missing front teeth. Nobody controls Mitchell’s Plain; Mitchell’s Plain controls itself.” I had no fixed address; I stayed here, there and everywhere that I found a place. When I turned 18 I could afford my own car and I never looked back. Eventually, when I was 24, I got an education. I came to live here in 1976. “Mitchell’s Plain came about when the finance minister, Dr Horwood, and the Minister of Foreign Affairs negotiated a loan of R800-million from a foreign government to build houses for the so-called middle-class Coloured community of Cape Town. With that loan they developed a township in the bundus, miles away from friends, family and industry. It is my belief that the previous regime shot themselves in the foot, not knowing what lay ahead. “My first contact and association with the new development came through

my position as an employee of Central Installation Works, a plumbing company based in Athlone Industria. They won the tender to provide all the plumbing work on site. When I visited the area it resembled an oasis in the middle of the desert – white sand, fynbos and nothing else. This should have put anybody in his or her right mind off, but if you struggled the way most of us did it seemed like paradise in the wilderness. “We were so excited about the prospect of owning a brick house that we went to the visitors’ information centre at Dagbreek Hall week after week. Upon inspecting the building materials I discovered that the contractors were not building according to the specifications on the original plans. My hackles were raised. The community worker in me took over and I started pointing out to

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past as there were no shops in our desert town. It was only the entrepreneurial spirit of the Indian shopkeeper and his daily travelling combi stocked with bread, cigarettes, milk and other essentials that saved our lives. We hated the daily exodus to our places of work, far from our homes. (From the archives) prospective buyers that what was on the plans was not what was being built. People started getting jittery and the officials grew irritated with me. Did this stop me? No. All the faults were rectified within a few weeks. And so began my community work in Mitchell’s Plain. “I moved into my house in 1976. Soon after moving in, other infrastructural things like paving and street lights were installed. We soon realised that running to the Indian corner shop was a thing of the

“Social life was nonexistent. I got a few guys together and we started the Westridge Darts Club. We needed something to involve the women too so we formed the Westridge Ballroom Club from my house. As the local population increased more and more groups were formed and we amalgamated them into one big organisation called the Mitchell’s Plain Social Club. It just stood to reason that we needed to put pressure on the relevant authorities to provide sport and recreational facilities, and we organised ourselves into the Westridge Ratepayers’ Association.

“If you believe strongly in something you are goin to burn bridges. I cannot work in a political party. I’m seen as an obstacle because I question why I should do something I don’t believe in.”

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“During my tenure as chairperson of the association we stopped the mining of the Westridge dunes when Westgate was established. We had the squatter community removed twice. We took over the sub-council offices in order to stop ablution and water facilities provided for the dune squatters unless a commitment was made by council to house them when the Tafelsig economic housing scheme was completed. “We fought a proposed clinic closure, we closed down a shebeen and we worked with Cussiem Gamiet to stop shebeens from being legalised. We had an ongoing campaign to close down the Westridge City nightclub. We opposed the opening of a nightclub in Dagbreek, and we opposed and stopped two permits for adult shops… The list is endless. “If you believe strongly in something, you are going to burn bridges. I cannot work in a political party. I’m seen as an obstacle because I question why I should do something I don’t believe in. I won’t shut up and that makes me unpopular. For example, my one and only daughter will never marry a White man. I would disown her. No apologies – it’s a fact of life for me.

“After I left the ANC I started the Mitchell’s Plain Community Development Forum in 1995. I was one of the architects of the Reconstruction and Development Programme (RDP). People blame me for killing the RDP, but really it was killed because political parties used it as a weapon to gain popularity amongst people. “I’ve never set foot in the shiny Promenade Shopping Centre. Why? Because it did not bring development. 3.1 million bread rolls are sold there everyday at R3 per roll. By three o’clock the Fidelity guards come and take the money out of Mitchell’s Plain. Why not build a bakery here so that it develops local business, and keep the money here? “There are three memorable things that happened here: The people from Mitchell’s Plain showed that they will not put a tricameral parliament in place. The downfall of the National Party occurred with the establishment of the United Democratic Front in Mitchell’s Plain. And there’s this hidden spirit – a massive cluster of people – and when the chips are down, we unite. What I know for sure is that we are not just known for drugs, tik and missing front teeth. Nobody controls Mitchell’s Plain; Mitchell’s Plain controls itself.”

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TREVOR OOSTERWYK POLITICAL ACTIVIST

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A farewell to innocence He lost many friends, but the death of his best friend, Ashley Kriel, robbed him of tears. His marriage to the struggle meant that his family life suffered. Everything was political. Everything was personal.

T • REVOR OO

ER Y

Trevor was born on 24 March 1958 in Bridgetown on the Cape Flats. His first moment of political awareness led to a lifelong involvement in student, worker, community and youth politics. His love for writing, political analysis and commentary drew him to journalism and he worked as a journalist for the a e Ar s. He is currently the communications manager and spokesperson for Statistics SA. Trevor is also the father of four children and two grandchildren.

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revor Oosterwyk’s take on South African politics is honest, sobering and intensely painful. He’s a born activist; growing up on the streets of Bonteheuwel forced him to be. Trevor was fearless. Mobilising and inspiring the consciences of many people was second nature to him. He saw youngsters going off to be trained as soldiers. He hid his scholars from police brutality. He lost many friends, but the death of his best friend, Ashley Kriel, robbed him of tears. His marriage to the struggle meant that his family life suffered. Everything was political. Everything was personal. When the student uprisings erupted in Soweto in June 1976, Trevor was a scholar at Modderdam Senior Secondary School. “We were oblivious to the implications of ’76. We knew about it but certainly did not understand because we were not

politically conscious. I’d never heard of the ANC or Nelson Mandela. We’d never owned a television set. “This all changed in August 1976 when Keith Appollis, a Methodist church minister, called a meeting in the Church of the Resurrection in our area.” Coincidentally, this was one of the churches that activist and martyr Ashley Kriel, a close friend of Trevor’s, was buried from. “For the first time, we heard someone tell us about Soweto, what happened there and that they were black, not coloured.” To Trevor, this was new and refreshing. “The very next day we decided to boycott in solidarity with the children in Soweto. We also met Cheryl Carolus, who was a student at the University of the Western Cape at the time”. Trevor’s world consisted of Bonteheuwel. It was the only place he knew. “I could

see Langa from where we stayed, but had not been there. It was amazing how separate we were. The physical distance was negligible, but the personal space in between was wide. I started to see how ‘Black’ was a unifying term.” Blackness and Black consciousness started permeating his life. He was beginning to think about a new, unified state called Azania. It was a Damascene moment, and life would never be the same again. “It was a farewell to innocence,” says Trevor. One of the first marches he joined was to Gugulethu. They were badly beaten up. “If you are beaten up, you want to know more about why. We did not even know where the school was. Our aim was to foster the unification of African and Coloured scholars. We had running battles with the police, but were wise in our response to them. Three months of intense political

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TREVOR OOSTERWYK POLITICAL ACTIVIST

activity followed before things started to return to ‘normal’.” In 1978, Trevor enrolled at the University of the Western Cape, where “there was no political activity”. In 1979, he moved to Portlands in Mitchell’s Plain, the Fatti’s and Moni’s strike crippled the country, and Trevor wanted to become a Methodist priest.

(From the archives)

“We arrogantly behaved like politics started in the 70s,” he explains. “Fact is, there were trailblazers like Reggie September and others long before we woke up. Once you are politicised you need a political home. The good thing about the Cape was that there was never a dominant political presence. It was a space with many differing views. One of our successful campaigns was the one around electricity. How it worked was that people had to pay their bills by the 22nd of the month while they only got paid on the 25th. It gave us an oppor-

“50 000 people from all over the country descended on the Rocklands Civic Centre that day. The UDF had legitimacy in people’s eyes. What was important was that Coloured people were involved on a mass level.”

tunity to visit people in their homes to talk politics. You started talking about the council, which in turn gave you the opening to talk about the government and then move swiftly on to apartheid.” The rate of politicisation among communities was phenomenal. “We started the Mitchell’s Plain Youth Movement and established branches in every Coloured township. In 1980 we transformed it into a broader youth movement and when we hit 1983 we established the Cape Youth Congress, of which I was the first president, a position I held for two years.” 1980-1983 were intense years for Trevor. Areas were becoming highly politicised, Hanover Park joined the nationwide uprisings and more schools came out on boycott. Trevor started teaching, unqualified, at Easter Peak Primary School in Manenberg. He became involved with the Rocklands Ratepayers’ Association, formed student action committees and transformed them into a youth movements, and the Committee of One was formed. In 1981 he started teaching at Rocklands High School and marched to other schools to get them to join the boycotts. In the space of three years people were moved from political ignorance to being prepared to die for the cause.

They were riding the wave of political consciousness, with the best yet to come – the launch of the United Democratic Front on 20 August 1983. “We started mobilising people around a central slogan: ‘Apartheid divides, UDF unites.’ 50 000 people from all over the country descended on the Rocklands Civic Centre that day. The UDF had legitimacy in people’s eyes. What was important was that Coloured people were involved on a mass level. What the ANC did for Black Africans, the UDF did for Coloured Africans. It unified organisations under one umbrella.” By 1985 things started dissipating. Political prisoners were coming back from Robben Island and a strange dichotomy developed. Suddenly there was a sense of hierarchy, of importance. “A clash of political cultures was imminent. Where we fought for one ideal, there was now a certain hierarchy to maintain. When the first democratic elections took place in 1994, we lost Mitchell’s Plain to the National Party. I felt like I was sucker-punched. ‘How could they?’ I asked myself. In our arrogance we forgot to check whether the people were with us every step of the way. We assumed they would do the right thing. The road is still very long.”

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FLORIDA MARTIN TAXI OWNER

I am woman, hear me roar

“I have my own minibus and I work for myself.”

W

hat do you do when the church sanctions your dream of becoming a police officer? You break into uncharted territory. You become one of a few female minibus taxi drivers prepared to take on the challenge of delivering millions of carless South Africans to their places of work.

• FLORI A

AR IN

Florida Martin attended Westridge High School. She is one of a few female taxi drivers in Mitchell’s Plain. She played an instrumental role in this project as the liaison between Artscape, the Alliance Française Mitchell’s Plain and the taxi owners at the Hazeldene taxi rank.

Her name is Florida – just Florida. Like Oprah, she doesn’t need a surname. All the taxi drivers at the Hazeldene taxi rank in Mitchell’s Plain know whom you’re talking about if you ask for her. The 45-yearold Florida is an Amazonian woman, with eyes that can look right through you and a no-nonsense attitude – probably a good thing, considering this is a hardcore, male-dominated environment. “Many people think I’m a lesbian, but it doesn’t bother me. Women can also be

taxi drivers now. I have my own minibus and I work for myself.”

in the morning and leave by six in the evening. It’s where I spend my life.”

One of six children, Florida comes from a family of taxi operators. They’ve lived in Mitchell’s Plain for 30 years and Florida has no desire to ever leave the suburb. She attended Westridge High School but left after completing standard eight, whereupon she worked at Pep Underwear in Epping. The daily train commutes eventually got to her and she joined her eldest brother in the taxi industry. He sadly passed away.

Mitchell’s Plain is an important rail and taxi hub, given the area’s relative isolation from central Cape Town and the long distances residents thus have to travel for work purposes. In post-apartheid South Africa this lack of infrastructure and a deteriorating public-transport system provided an opening for the townshipborn minibus-taxi operators to flourish.

Florida chronicles her life in numerical rather than chronological order. “I worked in Epping for three years, worked for my brother for 10 years, I’ve been in the taxi industry for 15 years and my baby is 19 years old. I started as a guard on my husband’s taxi. I’m at the taxi rank at five

The first minibus taxis started operating in Mitchell’s Plain from Nyanga station in 1979. Now there are more than 1 000 taxis ferrying people all over the city. At Hazeldene taxi rank, from which Florida operates, there are 40 minibuses. It was the first rank in Mitchell’s Plain and has been operating for more than 30 years. By law, taxi owners are required to be

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FLORIDA MARTIN TAXI OWNER

registered. Over the years, they have formed strong organisations that jealously guard their routes. Florida belongs to the Hazeldene Shuttle Service, which is run by her husband, Trevor Martin.

(From the archives)

There was a gap in the market when the number of buses servicing Mitchell’s Plain was decreased. Into this gap stepped the minibus taxis. “There are buses, but people need more transport options more frequently. In our industry, there

“The men don’t treat us differently. We all work towards a daily target of R300. If you make more than that, it’s all yours. It’s hard, bearing in mind that each trip earns you R60 and, once you have offloaded the peak-hour commuters, it’s difficult to fill up a taxi. If you own a Quantum you have to make R2 000 a week.”

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are opportunities for linesmen and taxi drivers to undergo training, but nobody goes. It’s difficult to take time off, because we have to make money. My husband went, however. “I think more women should be involved. The men don’t treat us differently. We all work towards a daily target of R300. If you make more than that, it’s all yours. It’s hard, bearing in mind that each trip earns you R60 and, once you have offloaded the peak-hour commuters, it’s difficult to fill up a taxi. If you own a Quantum you have to make R2 000 per week. My brother owns 10 minibuses. And they have to be spick and span, because the commuters refuse to get into a run-down van.”

them to pursue dreams other than the taxi industry? They don’t have to if they don’t want to. It’s hard to have dreams for my daughters; they must make up their own minds about what they want to do. They are also very independent thinkers – like me.” Florida’s is an insular life. Politics, lesbians, even people coming into the area to come and shop frankly leave her cold. “Here at the rank we meet and we greet and we get on with our lives. Everything I want is here.”

Florida’s whole world is centred in and on Mitchell’s Plain. “The Promenade Shopping Centre made a huge difference in our lives as well as our work. It gives us work. Now I never have to leave. Would I want my kids to leave? Would I want

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MICHELLE OHLSSON CHILDREN’S RIGHTS CAMPAIGNER

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About a boy

“When kids who went missing and are now adults call me to tell me that they’re getting married, I know that I have been a blessing in other people’s lives. That’s my destiny.”

M •

I

ELLE O L

ON

Michelle Ohlsson is a tireless advocate for children’s rights. Missing children inspired her passion for justice and she established Concerned Parents of Missing Children, a nonprofit organisation dedicated to helping parents trace their children. She initiated the Annual Day of Prayer for Missing Children & Children at Risk, awareness campaigns for missing children, as well as counselling and outings for families of missing children. In 2002 she started Kids 4 Missing Kids (K4MK) to support siblings of children who have disappeared.

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y parents did not raise me; a church sister raised me. My mother gave me away. I was abused as a child. I got married and had my first child at 18, moved into my first house at 19 and made a pact with God that I would never allow any of these things to happen to my children. I was overprotective of my four kids. In 1997 my eldest son, Matthew, disappeared. He was nine. “When I got married, we first stayed with my in-laws, but I wanted my own place. So, 24 years ago, we moved into our first house in Lentegeur. Then Portlands, then Westridge. We moved a lot. Matthew disappeared in Westridge. I couldn’t stay there any longer and we moved away from the area. I had to get away to ease the pain. But you can’t run away.

“Matthew’s disappearance altered my life. My family was traumatised; we had to get psychological help. Lots of things happened around us. Everyone wanted to help and churches were praying for his safe return. His story appeared in all the newspapers, his picture was everywhere. How could I say no? But there were also all sorts of rumours and lies that I accepted money for all the publications and interviews. I never charged for any interview. All I wanted was for my son’s picture to get out into the world in the

hope that someone would recognise him and bring him home. When I gave interviews it was to get Matthew’s message out and in that way highlight the stories of all the other kids who disappeared. At that time, I went into a deep depression. “But God intervened. I started looking at Matthew’s disappearance more closely, and wondered what I could do to help other parents in the search for their missing children. How could I make an impact on child trafficking? On 10 April 1999

“God was ever present, guiding me. I started having vivid dreams and visions of the places and streets where kids went missing…”

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MICHELLE OHLSSON CHILDREN’S RIGHTS CAMPAIGNER

I formed the Concerned Parents of Missing Children organisation. I started having vivid dreams and visions of the places and streets where kids went missing. My husband wrote them all down. And God was ever present, guiding me.

(From the archives)

“I learned more about child trafficking and started educating myself by joining organisations like Molo Songololo. We went onto the streets and took kids away from pimps. Then people started to turn to us and not the police for help. We worked differently. Our method was to respond immediately, not to wait for 48 hours in the hope that the child would surface somewhere. I insisted that the mothers be involved, because they knew their children best. We became safe-house parents – rehabilitation parents.

“Now we’re working with 24 families on a personal basis – families who haven’t heard or seen anything about their kids since their disappearances. And, when these kids are found, we assist in integrating them back into family life.”

“We worked hand-in-hand with the Minister of Police at the time, Leonard Ramatlakane, and were instrumental in the Child Rapid Response Programme that they started. Many of the things that the police do now in looking for missing kids have changed because of our actions.

“Kids still go missing. We’ve helped more than 400 families over the years. Now we’re working with 24 families on a personal basis – families who haven’t heard or seen anything about their kids since their disappearances. And, when these kids are found, we assist in integrating them back into family life.

“But bureaucracy has a way of getting in the way and we were kicked out of the formal structures. Social services did not and still don’t want to acknowledge that things are wrong in our communities. The police and other social structures perceived us to be running a business; they thought that we were making money.

“I’m not as active and involved as I used to be. It’s time to concentrate on my own kids. My husband and I always shared our lives with other people. I will never be silenced, stop talking or stop looking for my son. People said I kept my kids captive after Matthew’s disappearance. Do they blame me? They still recognise me on the streets as the mother of the boy who disappeared and for the work that I’ve done. We must never forget the children who go missing. Their parents never forget because they never had a chance to say goodbye.

“I am a Christian and do not believe in fighting fire with fire. I can’t deal with all the negativity anymore. For me it’s about awareness, so I started an informal little office at my house – a safe house, a place where traumatised kids and parents can come to breathe. “We must never generalise anything about the disappearance of kids. Each disappearance is different; each child is at a different stage in their life when they disappear. All of these factors need to be taken into account and acknowledged.

“I’ve only ever been out of Mitchell’s Plain once – when I won a prize to go to Swaziland. But now it’s time to move on; it’s time for a change of scenery. It’s all taken its toll on me. “Matthew appeared to me in a dream recently. He would have been 23 now…”

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OMAR ADAMS ENTERTAINMENT MANAGER

The man behind

the moppie

I

• O AR A A

Omar was born in Claremont, Cape Town, in 1945. He has used his passion for music to nurture and develop young people, keep them off the streets, and provide opportunities for them to use their spare time constructively. He created the group Kinders van die Ses and started a drama workshop for young people in his own home. He is the father of the famous singers and actors Emo and Luqmaan Adams.

was born in Claremont, grew up in Retreat because of the Group Areas Act and my family moved to Eastridge in Mitchell’s Plain in 1982 after staying in rooms all over the place. Mitchell’s Plain was still very raw back then. The kids had nothing to do, and I knew I had to make a plan to keep them busy and out of trouble. I got involved in entertainment and started taking kids to shows. “I started to do things in my own house too. I started with my two sons, Luqmaan and Emraan (better known as Emo), Alistair Izobell, and three local girls: Zubeida Bowers, Carlen Meyer and Rashieda Solomons. These initial six children were the inspiration for the name of the group ‘Kinders van die Ses’,

“I’m a Malay choir singer. I write moppies.”

not children from the area District Six. That was way back in 1989. Two weeks after the formation of the group, two more members joined, Shamiela Alexander and Zenobia Daniels. More and more kids joined and today all the kids in my group are still from Mitchell’s Plain.

Without any sponsorship or training, the group took off like wildfire. When they performed, the crowds filled up the Luxurama, the Joseph Stone and Cape Town City Hall. We played everywhere from Wellington to as far away as the Eastern Cape and Gauteng.

“Our productions included Kanalla Tietie, Die Mardi Grass, Kom Binne As Jy Wil Skinner, Wag ‘n Bietjie, Lag ‘n Bietjie, Sing ‘n Liedjie, and many, many more.

“My sons are famous because I made them so. I took them to the airport to welcome the tourists, they sang at churches, the Nico Malan (now Artscape)

“The kids had nothing to do, and I knew I had to make a plan to keep them busy and out of trouble.”

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and took them to the EOAN Group for voice training. I started arranging gigs for them – 10 minutes, then 30 minutes, then longer. I travelled the smaller towns with them, and then ventured to Johannesburg, Pretoria and so forth. I was approached by the Coons to assist them with training after being spotted by El Etto at a Coon carnival. They got their big break when they went with Ricardo to Tokyo in Japan and sang with the likes of Stevie Wonder.

Bottom Omar L

maa a

Emo A ams

“When District Six – The Musical started, David Kramer heard about my boys. David wanted to see Luqmaan only. But Luqmaan couldn’t sing in English; he was used to singing moppies in Afrikaans. I write moppies and have been doing so for 25 years. And I’ve been winning at Malay choir competitions for 25 years. I write moppies for the Coons too. I used to train and coach Malay choirs as well as

“My DVDs are all over the world. It bred and now they are all over, just like the drama school that spawned more drama schools.”

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the Coons. A moppie has a fast beat and needs a front singer, whereas Nederlands, songs, like ‘Rosa’, have a slow beat. I took Luqmaan to audition for the part of Broetjie in Distrix Six – The Musical. He sang ‘Rosa’ and they were shocked by the purity of his voice. “I remember we were invited to come and watch the show to see what Broetjie does and how he performs, but Luqmaan didn’t want us to go because Broetjie’s clothes were too tattered. That’s how Luqmaan started. When he became too old for the role, Emo took over. Luqmaan then played Cassiem in the musical. The rest is theatre history. “I started to invest time in other children by teaching singing and drama at the local recreation centre. It was the first drama school here. Currently there are 20 kids in the school. Many kids formed their own groups and moved on. More than 300 kids have gone through my hands in more than 21 years. I used to work from my house, where I had my own studio. The kids are all from underprivileged circumstances and the stories for my productions evolve from them.

“I’m proud of what I’ve done for the local community. I never charged for shows; people donated generously. That’s my legacy. To date I have approximately 60 productions on DVD. That’s besides the unfilmed ones. People make more money from selling copies of my DVDs than I do. They wouldn’t be able to sell them if they weren’t good. My DVDs are all over the world. It bred and now they are all over, just like the drama school that spawned more drama schools. It makes me feel good. “A percentage of the money is ploughed back into Kinders van die Ses. I pay for costumes, transport and tickets. They don’t pay a cent. Although we some get donations, most things come out of my pocket. I’m 66 years old now. I’m known as Ta’Maan. I will never stop working in Mitchell’s Plain. Here you are still known by your neighbours and you are needed to help the kids. “There’s a lot of potential and we need to create opportunities for the kids. Here you have a purpose. Other areas do not need a purpose any more; in Mitchell’s Plain you have a purpose.”

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ALISTAIR IZOBELL SINGER, DIRECTOR, PRODUCER

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Ali from the block “I was always in one pantomime or the other, ever since I was in standard one.”

• ALI

AIR I OBELL

Alistair’s entertainment career started at age five with him doing variety shows and pantomimes. His introduction to mainstream theatre was in the role of Broertjie in David Kramer and the late Taliep Petersen’s istrict i he sica . He travelled the world as a young performer with the musical at a the i s, for which the entire cast received the Laurence Olivier Award for Best Actor in a Musical in 1999. After 25 years in the industry he opened his own production company, Alistair Izobell Productions. He also has his own radio show on Kfm.

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A

listair Izobell professes to not having a political consciousness. Yet, he defines himself as a Coloured person, albeit one who just wants to perform. This is all he knows. He knows not of a time when people fought against apartheid. The youngest of four kids, Alistair grew up in Westridge. His entire family – everyone he knew – lived in Mitchell’s Plain. Their family was big and they socialised among themselves. The kids knew nothing outside of the family unit. There was really no need ever to leave the area. He describes his life as being the poorest of the poor. Some days the family had

little more than bread and jam to eat. He did not know that this was not the norm. They were happy. From the age of seven, Alistair was on stage. “I was always in one pantomime or the other, ever since I was in standard one. When I was in standard four I starred in District Six – The Musical. So it’s fair to say that my professional career started with David Kramer and the late Taliep Petersen. I had to go to Cape Town to star in the musical. That was the first time I took a bus. Alone! “In 1986 and ’87 David and Taliep were the bomb! They were our heroes and we aspired to be part of their world. Our lives

centred on music. I can’t even change a tyre; all I know is music.” At that stage he was part of a group, Kinders van die Ses, where Omar Adams, father of the singers Emo and Luqmaan, honed Alistair’s skills. Alistair moved out of Mitchell’s Plain when he turned 16. In that same year he starred in Buddy Holly. “But I always went back to Mitchell’s Plain,” he says, “because, like I said, my entire family was there. Mitchell’s Plain moulded me into who and what I am today. Gosh, we were poor. I was oblivious to something called apartheid. My existence in show business – that’s the only way I can describe it –

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ALISTAIR IZOBELL SINGER, DIRECTOR, PRODUCER

kept me away from politics and political stuff. I knew about it, but was not involved in it. My family was never in any danger.

Bottom A istair ith his i e im ( e t) a a s i ht (ri ht)

“I am of mixed race. It’s who I am. I told my daughter that’s who she is. It informs what I do. Self-empowerment is important. Education is important. Celebrate your talent. Mitchell’s Plain made me a completely grounded person. That’s why I know I must assist disadvantaged people in getting access to the right resources. After 25 years in the business, I started the Alistair Izobell Production

“I could not have been born anywhere else in the world but in Mitchell’s Plain.”

Company seven years ago. I secured the exclusive African rights to the acclaimed New York musical, Three Mo’ Tenors. It’s my own. I use it to entice young artists to experience and embrace an audience like I did. I’m very involved in discovering new talent. I use my own life as a mirror.” Alistair credits the community he grew up in with giving him a sense of selfworth. “People respected the role of parents. I have such a lot of respect for my dad as a breadwinner, even if there was no bread on the table. I’m married to a Jewish woman and she’s more coloured than I am! My family took her right in. That’s the sense of community that you get in my family and I’m passing it on to my kids.” But it’s when he talks about the highlights of his career that Alistair comes alive.

“I dined with Denzel Washington, sang with Luther Vandross at the Four Seasons Hotel in New York, sang for royals, had lunch with Gladys Knight, met and performed for Nelson Mandela in the West End in London, spent a year with Stevie Wonder and won the Sir Laurence Olivier Award in 1999 for best actor in a musical – Kat and the Kings. It’s a great feeling when you’re in the company of international stars like Liam Neeson and Morgan Freeman, and they are in awe of you and the crew from South Africa – these disadvantaged kids from the block who can move people on an emotional level. I’ve come a long way, baby! “That’s why I say I could not have been born anywhere else in the world but in Mitchell’s Plain. It’s just my life. No showing off…”

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RUDOLPH PORTHEN JAZZ SINGER, TALENT MANAGER

Mitchell’s Plain’s

got talent

R •R

OLP

POR

EN

Rudolph was born in District Six. His life has been defined by music. His first big show was in 1965, and he has performed with the likes of Jonathan Butler, Sophia Foster, Sammy Hartmann, and David Kramer and the late Taliep Petersen’s Crooners. He has also worked as entertainment manager for various clubs such as Goldfinger and Galaxy, and in 1980 he opened Club Fantasy in Mitchell’s Plain.

udolp Porthen moved to Westridge, Mitchell’s Plain with his first wife 35 years ago. He came from Manenberg and the carrot dangled in front of his nose was that it was a great place to move to – palm trees and everything. At the time, Rudolph was the manager of Club Galaxy, one of Cape Town’s hottest nightclubs. Well, it was certainly no palm-tree-lined oasis on the sandy shores of Mitchell’s Plain. Rudolph was a singer-turned-manager who worked with the likes of Dollar Brand (now Abdullah Ibrahim), Jonathan Butler, and so forth. On his watch they organised talent shows that far surpassed what we today know as Idols. He had an

“My surname is not Paulse, it’s actually Porthen. People constantly mispronounced my name so Rudolph Paulse became my stage name.”

eye for talent and, when he opened Club Fantasy, a major Mitchell’s Plain nightclub in 1980, he brought all these people there to entertain the residents for a minimal fee. There was a small hall in Westridge, before they build the Westridge Civic Centre, which hosted jazz and great music events. Rudolph organised dances, fashion shows, talent competitions,

concerts with groups like Bloodshed and the Rockets, and jazz evenings with Robbie Jansen. It soon became evident that he needed more management skills and went on management courses with the Small Business Development Corporation (SBDC). Soon afterwards, he opened his own business at Mitchells Plain Town Centre with money from the SBDC.

“One of the fun things was organising a pieeating competition for boys. They had to eat no fewer than six pies at a time!”

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RUDOLPH PORTHEN JAZZ SINGER, TALENT MANAGER

He was now so inspired that he wanted to open a music school too, and he had the buy-in from his cousin, Basil Manenberg Coetzee.

(From the archives)

He needed a business partner and roped in his neighbour, but the relationship soured and things didn’t work out. Instead, Rudolph opened Club Fantasia at Westridge Town Centre. It was good times, with jazz evenings and fashion shows, and disco was the name of the game. The club featured acts like Kitty, Vernon Castle, Basil Manenberg Coetzee, Errol Dyers, Boogeyman (a vocal group), the Gary Hendricks Trio and, of course, Rudolph Paulse. His hero was Four Tops

“I would still like to open a music school because there is such a lot of talent here. As an entertainer I believe in talent, not in reality shows like they have nowadays.”

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lead singer, Levi Stubbs. “I loved singing ‘I’m still your man’,” says Rudolph. Cover charge in those days was just R2. “From there I moved to Inn on the Plain as entertainment manager. We hired groups like Sakhile to play. We went to the townships and put up posters. Boom! Full house. The resident band was Horizon. I admired guys like Winston Mankunku and he and I became best friends. He played with his heart. Ezra Ngcukana played with Basil Coetzee at the club. We ran a Miss High School competition sponsored by Shoprite. One of the fun things was organising a pieeating competition for boys. They had to eat no fewer than six pies at a time! “On Saturday mornings there was Shoppers Jazz, where Horizons and Robbie Jansen brought the house down. While mom shopped, dad and the kids enjoyed the music. It started at 10am and ended at 1pm, and we cleaned up till 2pm. Down Memory Lane was for

langarm professionals – Bobby Hendricks, Strand Combo and the Ikey Gamba Band played. For nonprofessionals we organised open ballroom competitions sponsored by Capenheimer. Tanya Nefdt, now an e.tv news presenter, strutted her stuff in Mitchell’s Plain and won the Dream Girl competition. So many things to do, so little time! The highlight of my career was being master of ceremonies when the Manhattans performed at the Good Hope Centre way, way back in the day.” It was a busy time and Rudolph married his second wife, whom he met at Galaxy when he was a manager there. They moved into Westridge together. Now Rudolph is involved in fundraising for schools where kids can go to perform. “I would still like to open a music school because there is such a lot of talent here. As an entertainer I believe in talent, not in reality shows like they have nowadays. Mitchell’s Plain’s got talent. I was a judge – I know.”

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CECIL JACOBS BALLET DANCER / TEACHER

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The Plain’s

principal dancer “This is Cecil’s passion. If I take it away from him, he will die. I have ploughed so much money and energy into this. If we’d had children, Cecil would have neglected our own to do for others.” – Brenda Jacobs, Cecil’s wife

C • E IL JA OB

Cecil was born in District Six in 1940. He became a successful ballet dancer in an era when this was not an obvious profession for a young man to pursue. Cecil taught dance at the EOAN Group and at the City Council as a senior instructor. With his wife he started the Outreach Community Bursary Project, which teaches ballet. Cecil is an honorary member of the London Academy of Music and Dramatic Art.

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ecil is one of 13 children. He grew up in District Six and from there his parents moved to Bridgetown. He didn’t like Bridgetown much because there was nothing for the local children to do. But Cecil loved to dance. He loved the attention showered on him when he performed for others, much to the amusement, and often derision, of his family and others in the community. They wanted to know why he wanted to dance and act, because those things were things that white people did. Paying them no mind, the 14-year-old Cecil started teaching the neighbourhood kids to dance. This was the beginning of his lifelong relationship with ballet and the arts.

Cecil’s path into the world of ballet wasn’t easy, though. The CAPAB Ballet Company (now the Cape Town City Ballet) was for white dancers only, so he enrolled at the University of Cape Town (UCT) to study ballet. It was a historically white university, which meant he had to get special permission to study there. One of the humiliations he had to endure was being asked to reclassify himself as white in order to be accepted into the CAPAB fold. He was, however, lucky enough to be awarded a bursary by Dulcie Howes herself to study dance and teaching at UCT. Howes trained him in the Cecchetti method and Mignon Furman taught him the Royal Academy method.

Cecil then left for London for three years to learn dance teaching methods, art and drama. He was never interested in becoming a star, but rather was committed to coming back to South Africa to develop and grow other children who shared the same dream – just to be able to dance. Upon his return, he taught dance classes at schools as an extramural activity – made possible through the support of school principals who established the Cecil Jacobs Bursary Fund. However, when the government closed down ballet and art classes, he returned to the council before leaving again for London. In the interim, he also obtained a Montessori teaching certificate.

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CECIL JACOBS BALLET DANCER / TEACHER

lounge in their Mitchells Plain house into a dance studio, and Cecil started giving free dancing classes on a Saturday. And the kids came from everywhere – Hazeldene, Parkhurst, Liesbeeck, Merrydale, Caravelle, Highlands Primary, Duneside, Rocklands Primary, Strandfontein Primary, Springdale, Ridgeville, St Francis Educare… However, the kids were hungry because their parents were less fortunate, and thus started Brenda’s afternoon baking.

(From the archives) When he met his wife, Brenda, he could start living his dream. After Brenda’s retirement she started to help Cecil establish a space where he could teach underprivileged children to act, dance and read. With Brenda’s life savings and Cecil’s monthly pension, they turned the

“The kids did so well. We were invited to Johannesburg to attend a full dance course at the Royal Academy, a brilliant opportunity to expose them to dance training. It would be their first flight! We had to get money and so we baked muffins, muffins and more muffins to pay for the plane tickets. My wife baked and the kids sold. I started calling random numbers to get sponsorships. The par-

“How can you pirouette and point and never see the brilliance of Swan Lake being performed on a big stage?”

ents administered the fund. And, lo and behold, we got the money. “ Many of these kids had never seen the inside of a theatre. Cecil was having none of this and decided to do something about it. So he took the first group of kids to the Baxter Theatre. “How can you pirouette and point and never see the brilliance of Swan Lake being performed on a big stage? Most of them had never been out of Mitchell’s Plain, let alone to the theatre. Jinne, it was so funny and sad at the same time, because they wanted to take padkos. We jumped in and made other arrangements. Shame, they didn’t know about theatre etiquette.” When the funding dried up, Cecil and Brenda realised that they could not be reliant on hand-outs alone and that the parents should get involved. This proved difficult, as some could pay and others could not. The younger children now pay R100 per term and the seniors R500. Very few people honour their payments, but that doesn’t stop Cecil from teaching. “To give them a little variety we sometimes take them to Strandfontein

Dancesport Centre. My wife bought a piano, because a pianist must accompany them – Royal Academy rules. “I had one brilliant dancer, Venecia Isaacs. There was no money to further her dancing skills, but Artscape Audience Development director, Marlene le Roux, secured a bursary so she could go and study. Another angel in the form of Linda de Vries, a lecturer, saw the kids dance at the University of the Western Cape and visited my house. She saw the lounge where the kids were dancing on a carpet and, with my wife, co-sponsored a proper dance floor in the dining room. As a member of the board of GrandWest she also got funding to pay for the kids’ exam entry fees. “I have an assistant, Chanelle Appollis, who has been with me for 22 years. She is studying at the Royal Academy of Dance. As long as the children are dancing and kept off the streets, my work will not have been in vain. One of my dancers, Sharon Paulse, became the first coloured principal dancer for Cape Town City Ballet and is currently on the board of the company. It brings tears to my eyes to look back on a proud journey. “That’s my legacy.”

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THERESA SOLOMON COMMUNITY BUILDER

The people’s mayor “I’m 66 years old and am challenging all teachers to up their professionalism, to pay attention to every kid, to reinstate home visits, and to make sure incidents don’t happen at schools that could have been foreseen and forewarned. I’m back to basics.”

M

ERE A OLO ON

Theresa was born in District Six, and spent her formative years there and in Walmer Estate. She has been involved with various community organisations such as the Cape Areas Housing Action Committee and the South African Council of Churches, and, later, the UDF. In 1995 Theresa was elected as mayor of Cape Town. She was also South African High Commissioner to Tanzania and then Canada. She now works with the Community Police Forum in Milnerton, facilitates a readingskills programme at Northwood Primary in Woodlands and serves as a trustee of the Mitchell’s Plain People’s Forum.

y mom’s family is from Cape Verde, but she was born in South Africa. My dad hails from Umtata in the Transkei. I was born in Searle Street in District Six – one of four kids. Our next home was on top of a bottle store on the corner of St Ledger and Hanover streets. That was the community life I knew. Every child was everyone’s child. There was a sense of family, and respect for people and the value system of families were overriding factors. “Because I was a girl, my dad taught me to fight in order to protect myself from an early age. It wasn’t necessary, though. We later moved again, this time to Walmer Estate, where the ‘Colourpeans’ – the name given to people believing themselves to be Europeans and not Coloureds – stayed. Hair was a very important factor to them.

“I got married in 1975 to Marcus Solomon and we stayed in Athlone. He was a political prisoner on Robben Island for 10 years. He was released in 1974 and we got married in 1975 – with special permission from the authorities. We have since divorced. “While staying in Athlone I got involved with the Black Women’s Organisation. At the end of 1975 we moved to Woodlands in Mitchell’s Plain. People were urged, besides those forcibly moved here, to come and live in the city by the sea. Westridge was the show area. We were some of the first people who moved into Woodlands. This is where my life as an activist began. “There were a lot of issues that forced us to take action. These included the lack of schools, the lack of transport for the

kids to get to schools, the washing-line campaign (maisonette living forced us to take action), no pavements, no parks for the kids to play in, no recreational facilities, no hospital, no police station in Tafelsig, and so forth. As a parent I wanted these things not only for my own child, but also for others. There were many different civic organisations all working under an umbrella body, the Mitchell’s Plain Coordinating Committee. When I was 30 I worked for a short while at the Black Sash. This was followed by a stint at the Dependants Conference, a sub-committee of the South African Council of Churches. “Living with someone who was banned and placed under house arrest presented many challenges. We couldn’t go out as a family. Sometimes we were detained at the same time. The effect on our

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THERESA SOLOMON COMMUNITY BUILDER

daughter was devastating. We made sure that she understood that we were fighting a system and not people. It was important that we did not racialise instances and incidents for her. It was a huge contradiction for a child to understand. “My first detention was difficult. I told my daughter not to cry. I now see the effects on her and I have a lot of guilt as a parent. I became an emotionless person. There was no trauma counselling. Activists didn’t need that … or so we thought.

(From the archives)

“I’m not a subservient person and I speak my mind when I have to, and the security police didn’t take kindly to it. I never broke under interrogation; I never took people to prison with me. At one stage I was the only

“Leaving Mitchell’s Plain in 2000 was the saddest moment of my life. I was leaving a life behind. I felt like somebody died. I’m back now serving on the Mitchell’s Plain Educational Board…”

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coloured person detained in Middelburg in the Karoo in the heart of winter. Brrr… The law required that we get six blankets, but I was issued with two plus a mattress. The blankets were riddled with white lice. Today I can’t sleep under a blanket. Solitary confinement took its toll on me. Bees and birds became my friends. My attention span is still severely affected. “Of course, there was the formation and the launch of the UDF. Becoming mayor was as much a highlight of my career as it was a cultural shock. ‘Madam Mayor… Your Excellency…’ The office I sat in was the very office I’d toyi-toyi’d in. I didn’t like the ceremonial side. The the mayoral chain was just too heavy. It was made for a man. I wore it because it was important. People like the whole pomp and fair. The kids used to wait for me at the car and I’d let them all get in and drive them around. They squealed with glee when they could use the car phone. “It wasn’t my aim to be mayor; I wanted a better life for all. I was also the first mayor of colour in a new democratic dispensation. If you are the mayor of the people and the majority of them are poor, that’s where you have to be.

When you smell poverty, it humbles you. Other highlights of my life include presenting my credentials to President Mkapa of Tanzania when I became the high commissioner to that country; being given the freedom of the city of Cape Town by former president Nelson Mandela; and getting on an aeroplane in Dar es Salaam with Nelson Mandela (he wasn’t president yet), flying to the border of Burundi and the pilot taking us over the Serengeti. The look on Madiba’s face when he saw the vast plains and the animals was priceless. “Leaving Mitchell’s Plain in 2000 was the saddest moment of my life. I was leaving a life behind. I felt like somebody died. I’m back now, serving on the Mitchell’s Plain Educational Board as a trustee. It’s a bursary fund for kids of Mitchell’s Plain. I’m there twice a week to assist kids with reading challenges. I teach them confidence and to appreciate books. We finally got the Woodlands Project Centre off the ground after 10 years. “I’m 66 years old and am challenging all teachers to up their professionalism, to pay attention to every kid, to reinstate home visits. I’m back to basics.”

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BRENDA LEONARD MEDIA MANAGER

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Radiohead

“I was 12 years old when I landed in my first political meeting, by sheer accident. I sat there transfixed.”

• BREN A LEONAR

Brenda Leonard started at Bush Radio as an activist and was instrumental in the station’s development from the advocacy period to a fully operational radio station. Brenda has always had a burning passion for young people, particularly young women, and the emancipation of women in general. She believes radio can be used for gender education. Brenda holds a BA in communication science from UNISA and is currently studying towards an honours degree in media studies.

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W

e moved to Rocklands in Mitchell’s Plain when I was 10 years old. Finally we had our own house in the city by the sea. When my parents asked us what we wanted we said: ‘A double storey!’ “I attended Rocklands primary and high schools, and the Cape Peninsula Technikon, where I studied food technology. I was the chairperson of the science faculty’s student body, representing this body on the technikon’s student representative council. In 1994 I became involved with Bush Radio as an administrative assistant. I am now the station manager.

“While at high school in 1985 I was one of the pupils who made the shit happen in Rocklands. There’s no other way to describe it. Those were volatile times, filled with Molotov cocktails. Things got really intense when we were tear-gassed, sjambokked and chased by the security police. We were so committed and dedicated to eradicating apartheid, even though we were just kids in high school. “I was 12 years old when I landed in my first political meeting, by sheer accident. I sat there transfixed. In 1983 I started distributing pamphlets and becoming actively involved. We organised schools

to take part in the protests. While the elders and the leaders were in jail, we, the students, took the lead. It was the time of the Super Student Representative Council. We launched the Congress of South African Students in Mitchell’s Plain, but it wasn’t long before the branches were banned. I also joined the Cape Youth Congress and became the president of the Rocklands Student Representative Council. I dropped out of my studies because I went into hiding. The security police made my life hell. I have since obtained a BA in Communication Science from the University of South Africa (UNISA) and am currently studying towards an Honours Degree in Media Studies.

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BRENDA LEONARD MEDIA MANAGER

(From the archives)

“At home, my parents were on opposite sides politically. My mom was against the struggle and my dad was very aware of what was happening, but he was not politically active in any way. That’s when I realised something was wrong. In the first democratic elections in 1994 my mom voted for the National Party. It was what she knew; she didn’t want trouble. She was one of the people, and there were many of them, who believed that Nelson Mandela was a ‘terrorist’. The racial divide between Coloureds and Blacks caused many fights. The Coloureds felt that they were superior

“We should never be scared to visit the sad parts of our history here, like the moment Mitchell’s Plain was lost to the National Party, or the Station Strangler.”

to Blacks. They united because schools were targeted and this created a sense of unity in the community. Political education was needed. “After 1994 people felt that their dignity had been restored. They had the right to vote. For comrades, the outcome of the elections in Mitchells Plain was a slap in the face. The ANC lost – big time. Some comrades had nervous breakdowns. They felt that the community in which they had done such a lot of work had betrayed the struggle. Organisations died. People were demoralised. “More and more Coloured people became polarised. They felt left behind with the way the wrongs of apartheid were being redressed after 1994. ‘I also suffered…’ were the words uttered by many people. That’s when racism reared its ugly head. “Radio became more important in my life because I started realising the power of it. I dreamed of interviewing people like Gertrude Shope, Ruth First and Ellen Kuzwayo. I’m the eternal activist – and

that’s the role of Bush Radio. My vision for the radio station is to still be around five years from now. It’s hard out there. We won’t go commercial, even if we have to go without money. I feel it’s necessary for the less privileged. We take on their fights. It’s also important that we tell the stories of Mitchell’s Plain. I would like to see the erection of a museum where our memories and stories can be archived. I’d name it either the Elton Thompson or Shiraz Ebrahim Memorial Site. “I worry about the neglect still rife in Mitchell’s Plain. The one thing I want to see changed is the burden that some of our elders still live under. We are not doing our jobs if old people are still begging on the streets. “Mitchell’s Plain is a small town and that’s why I still live here. We should never be scared to visit the sad parts of our history here, like the moment Mitchell’s Plain was lost to the National Party, or the Station Strangler. We should engage vociferously in political debate to rid our society of intolerance and lack of respect.”

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LUTFEYAH ABRAHAMS SOCCER ADMINISTRATOR

Running

with the top dogs

I

me with an opportunity to change lanes in my career so I declined the offers on the table. I was young and ready for a new challenge.

“My dream was to become a school teacher but, because of circumstances, I had to find a job to support my parents. I finished school in 1975 and, in 1976, I started working at Pioneer Foods as a laboratory assistant. I enrolled for many courses and was soon promoted to quality manager, and then health-andsafety manager.

“In 1980 my husband and I moved to Portlands in Mitchell’s Plain. We were newlyweds and it was difficult to buy a house. We shared a place with people for a month-and-a-half. I didn’t like it. We heard about houses in Mitchell’s Plain, went to the housing office in Silversands and in April 1980 we moved into the house we still stay in. There was no town centre – nothing. Transport was inadequate. I had to take a bus to Manenberg and then to Nyanga station, and then a train to Epping to get to work. But life had to go on.

“In 2009 the company restructured and we were given a few options. It presented

“We have three kids: two boys (25 and 29) and one girl (23). My brother and his wife

come from a big family of 10 children, of which I am the ninth. Our family was forcibly removed to Bonteheuwel when I was four years old. I was fortunate to finish school, but my sisters got married when they were very young. I was independent from an early age – very ambitious and I wanted something more, something better. •L

FEYA

ABRA A

Lutfeyah was born in Crawford and was always actively involved in sport at school. Due to her children’s interest in football she became administratively involved in the sport. She is currently chairperson of Provincial Women’s Football and general secretary of the Mitchell’s Plain Football Association. She was also employed as the assistant hospitality manager at the Cape Town Stadium during the 2010 FIFA World Cup.

“Football is like a religion. You get involved, the circle becomes bigger, your friends become more.” passed away and we adopted their son, who is now 11 years old. That’s my family. As a mom, I had to take the boys to soccer practice after work and my interest in the sport was ignited. “I gradually got more and more involved. The boys used to play at Liverpool Portland Football Club and the people there saw my interest and asked me to become involved on the administration side of things. I became a member in 1993 and held the position of treasurer for 10 years, and was then made general secretary. “I broke the ice at Liverpool by being the first woman to become involved in football structures. I must admit that I never encountered any resistance from anyone in this male-dominated sport. I’m committed and passionate, and it shows. I’m proud to say that I made a difference

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LUTFEYAH ABRAHAMS SOCCER ADMINISTRATOR

by making sure that, administratively, the club was run very efficiently. I wasn’t there for the accolades; the kids’ delight was my reward. Fundraising became a focal point around which we all rallied and, by pulling off many a successful event, we were able to build the club. Liverpool put the Mitchell’s Plain Football Association on the map and we won many prizes. I’m still a member and am currently the general secretary of the Mitchell’s Plain Football Association.

Bottom L t e ah ith Arse a a a er Ars e

“I made a difference not only on the sports field but also in community structures. In Portlands, we can run our own facilities; it’s wrong for others to come here and think they can manage us. That’s why I am involved. I’m exposing corruption if I see it, whether I’m liked or not. My commitment is to my family, my sport and my community. I’m from the e

er

“I made a difference not only on the sports field but also in community structures. In Portlands, we can run our own facilities; it’s wrong for others to come here and think they can manage us.”

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old school – your child is my child; my child is yours. “In 2006 I became chairperson of women’s football for the South African Football Association (SAFA). In 2008 SAFA was put under administration and I was asked to continue running women’s football. I am still a standing committee member of SAFA, and provincial chairperson for women’s football, looking after SAFA Cape Town, Cape Winelands, Eden, Central Karoo, West Coast and the Overberg. “In 2009 I was fortunate to be selected as a volunteer for the FIFA Confederations Cup and the final draw at Cape Town International Airport. I was also assistant hospitality manager at the Cape Town Stadium during the FIFA World Cup. As a Mitchell’s Plainer, to have been a part of the local organising committee for hosting the World Cup in 2010 was a dream come true. I was in the VIP area and I met the top dogs. Phew, for me it was huge! “Football is like a religion. You get involved, the circle becomes bigger, your friends become more. In sport and in life it’s all about discipline – about getting ahead. That’s how I ended up

where I am today. It’s also because of my children, because I wanted something better for them, because I wanted to be involved in their lives. Parents can make such a huge difference by being present in their children’s lives. Because I wanted something more than just being married at a young age. “I want to be a role model for young Muslim girls. Many things have changed and now we are all equal. We now have radio stations, the holy Koran is being translated into English, and so forth. This provides you with an opportunity to have a better understanding because you can interpret and understand our teachings better. Use the opportunities presented to you. There is a place and a time for everything. “I will never move away from Mitchell’s Plain. We have been living here for 30 years. We are one of four families still left from the time we moved in back in the day. You get problems everywhere. What’s the difference in living somewhere else? Everything is within walking distance – the beach, shops, schools, sport. The infrastructure is fantastic. All that’s missing is an industrial area. It’s quiet and I’m happy. Get involved.”

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MIKE MICHAELS NEIGHBOURHOOD WATCH

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Gangbuster

“I am the unofficial mayor of Mitchell’s Plain. Why? There are things about Mitchell’s Plain that nobody else knows.”

M •

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AEL

Mike had been involved in various initiatives to ensure a safer community in Mitchell’s Plain. He was instrumental in the formation of community police forums and was actively involved in the Alpine Peace Forum. His passion is to work with youth at risk and he has worked with various schools in Mitchell’s Plain to create a safer environment in schools.

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ike Michaels came to Cape Town in 1984 because the cops were hunting him down for being an ANC supporter. Circumstances in Zwelenthemba, a township outside Worcester in the Boland, forced him to become an activist. He was 14, it was the year 1969, and he had his first run-in with the law. His crime? Picking up stones and knocking out the streetlights. It was his first act of defiance against a system that classified him as Coloured, but contained him in an African township. He was summarily arrested for sabotage. Mike was an angry young man. The son of a coloured mother from Worcester and a Xhosa father from the Eastern Cape, Mike straddled two worlds. Back then, during his childhood,

African people were forced to carry a pass. He saw very little of his father, who was constantly on the run as he was in the Cape illegally. This took him away for months at a time. “My hatred for the system started building then,” says Mike. “I became an ANC supporter when I was 14 and gave my heart to the Lord at 18.” Mike is an anomaly. He worked as a security officer and quotes as part of his job portfolio a stint as part of “the first group of security officers guarding the House of Representatives. I overheard many things there that I relayed to my ANC comrades, and which they then relayed to the exiles.” He regards himself as a foot soldier who never went into exile. He flirted with the apartheid system as well as Umkhonto we Sizwe.

Today he is unemployed and feels left behind by people like John Hlophe, Gerrit Jantjies, Jonathan Morris and the late Dullah Omar, to name but a few – guys he had closed ties with, according to him. Jeremy Veary, Anwar Achmat and the late Ashley Kriel were “part of my inner circle,” he says. “They were more than friends; they were my comrades.” Ironically, these guys were vehemently opposed to the system responsible for an institution like the House of Representatives, rather than interested in protecting it. Mike came to Cape Town in 1979. He moved into a house in Alpine Park, where he still lives today. Alpine Park, he says, is not to be mistaken for Beacon Valley. “The houses in Alpine Park are selfbuilt, not council houses like in Beacon Valley. There are no gangs in Alpine Park.

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“There are no gangs in Alpine Park. That’s the fruit of my labour.”

(From the archives) That’s the fruit of my labour.” He has fathered five children in wedlock (four from his first wife and one from his second), two outside of wedlock, and has 13 grandchildren. And that’s fine with him. In 1984 he was arrested by the Security Branch for underground activism and held in prison for 180 days without trial. “I was tortured and taken to Valkenberg. I was regarded as a ‘doctor’s patient’, which meant that they could keep me for six months. I was released on the 10th of June 1986 and placed under three years’ house arrest.” While in jail something significant happened to Mike. His fellow prisoners wanted to know why he did not have a Xhosa name. Up until then he’d never seen himself as a Xhosa man; he believed

he was Coloured. This made him sit up straight. He started reclaiming his identity when he contacted family members in Worcester. They told him his Xhosa name was Jongikaya (the eldest son) and his second name was Jonkikawa. “Any Xhosa man has two names,” he explains. And this is how he now wants to be known. So the Xhosa man, having lived all his life as a Coloured man, came to live in the Coloured township of Mitchell’s Plain. Living in Mitchell’s Plain exposed Mike to many things. “The first murder in Mitchell’s Plain was one of the boys executed by the Station Strangler. It was Jermaine Abrahams, a learner at Portlands High. Gang violence was rife. Clubs like Fantasia and Route 66 were breeding grounds for crime. As an activist I wanted to know how these gang activities worked. If I understood them I could fight them. Logical.”

Due to Mike’s work as a security officer he had an intimate understanding of the prison system. His knowledge of the prison gangs is astonishing. He estimates that there are between 50 and 150 gang groups in the Western Cape, the Americans being the biggest. In Pollsmoor the biggest gang is the 28s. According to Mike, prison gangs started way back in 1819, and have been growing and strengthening their connections ever since. Because of his insider knowledge he was able to navigate the streets of this evergrowing area. The first police forum was started in Manenberg and, soon after, Mitchell’s Plain followed suit with the formation of the Mitchell’s Plain Community Safety Forum. PAGAD (People Against Gangsterism and Drugs) was formed, and soon there was an all-out war against gangsters and drug pushing.

The more the gangs took hold in Mitchell’s Plain, the more Mike wanted to rid the area of them. Alpine Primary had to close doors eight times due to gang violence. He became the torchbearer for ridding the area of gangsters, rehabilitating them and keeping them out of prison. Many a night he has fearlessly stared down the barrel of a gun in his fight against crime. “Gangs make monsters out of our boys and taxi queens out of our girls. They must be stopped. Mitchell’s Plain should have a multi-skilled training and rehabilitation centre to assist the unemployed youth in developing skills that will make them an economically vibrant part of society.” Now Mike dreams of owning a piece of land where he can farm with chickens, and teach the youth of Mitchell’s Plain how to drive, basic Xhosa and skills like brick-making. “Skills that will keep them out of gangs and out of prison,” he says. Mike’s biggest achievement? Ridding Alpine Park of all the gangs. And will he ever leave Mitchells Plain? Never. Or … maybe when the government gives him a piece of a land near Worcester to start his chicken farm.

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MYMOENA RICHARDS HUMANITARIAN

Hadji

and the hill

M •

Y OENA RI

AR

Mymoena Richards was born 23 May 1941. She has been involved in numerous community initiatives throughout her life. In June 2002 the Silver Stars Senior Club awarded her a certificate of appreciation for her dedication and hard work. In 2007 she became a trustee of the Rocklands Ratepayers’ Association.

y name is Mymoena Richards, née Adams. I was born at 2 Cardiff Street, Newlands, on the 23rd of May 1941. My mother’s name was Zanap Adams (née Fagodien); my father’s was Achmat Adams. We were eight children and I am the third eldest. My father fought in World War II. My mother was pregnant at the time. I attended the Talfahla Institute in Draper Street, Claremont, and Steven Reagon in Claremont, and then moved to Wetton. I worked in the leather industry. After some years I met a young man, Achmat Richards – tall, dark and handsome. We got married. I gave birth to eight children and we moved to Retreat. Thirty-one years ago we moved to Mitchell’s Plain and I’m still here. I also went to Mecca on a pilgrimage.”

“I’ve got 22 grandchildren and six great grandchildren. I hope and pray that they will follow in my footsteps.”

This is how the woman better known as Antie Moena describes herself, in neat handwriting on an A4 piece of paper from an exercise book. She is the organiser aunty of the community and goes about her everyday life with the strong belief that she has to know what goes on in her street. And she believes that happy streets make happy communities, which in turn lead to happy cities. There might not be milk to add to her tea today – she gets by on her pension money, but she was there when there was enough soup around to feed the hungry masses when they went to confront the sjambok-wielding security policemen. She was right there with her kids when they were tear-gassed during the student

uprisings in the 80s. She was right there when Mandela came to Rocklands. And she stood firm on her insistence of having a hill shielding gangsters opposite her house bulldozed. Antie Moena’s mom was living in Mondale in Mitchell’s Plain when she and her young family came looking for a house. The year was 1980 and she was 40 years old – a housewife with eight children. They went to the rent office and were told that they could get a house at the end of that month if they put down a deposit of R170. “Here in Mitchell’s Plain everybody knows everybody,” she says. Because of this, Antie Moena got involved in the crèches her children attended by being trained

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as a teacher’s aid. She was part of the first neighbourhood watch in the area, Sky Hawk, and made sure the members had a bowl of hot soup to comfort them after their nightly patrols. She did voluntary work wherever she felt there was a need, worked at Westridge mosque and Darul Gikma in Rocklands, and was part of the Mitchell’s Plain Network On Violence Against Women.

(From the archives)

“I got involved in politics because the police were tear-gassing our children at school. Mitchell’s Plain was deurmekaar [in uproar]. The kids decided that they were going to march to Pollsmoor in protest. Everybody went, even the teachers. I took the day off to see for myself what was happening. I took three of my children with. They shot us with tear gas and sjambokked the people. And I just stood there in my long white robe and my doek and

“I am my own neighbourhood watch!”

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looked at them. They never touched me. I was very angry. From then on I attended every political meeting. I’m 70 now and I still educate people politically. We have to understand where we came from as a nation. I volunteer at the senior citizens’ homes. They don’t want to talk politics, but I don’t keep quiet about things. God created everybody. He didn’t create colour. Some people don’t want to change, but I can’t be involved with narrow-minded, racist people. You need to change.” Beside the need for personal change, she also believes in going out there to change things if you are not happy about them. Like the time when they wanted to open a tavern next to her house: “Not next to me, they won’t!” was her response. And she mobilised the neighbours and made sure no tavern was opened. Then there was the time she was worried that unsavoury elements would hide behind the sand hill in front of her house, endangering the safety of the people in her street. She started writing to the council until they came

and flattened the hill and made it into a little garden. “Now I have a view onto the garden I wanted 30 years ago,” she says while a smile lights up her face. There was a time when she wanted to move out of Mitchell’s Plain, but her neighbours and the broader community quickly put a stop to it. They said: “Antie Moena, you’ve done too much for us. Take down that ‘For sale’ board. Antie Moena moet doodgaan uitie hekkie uit. [When you die, you must depart out of this little gate.]” “I want my kids to take initiative too. If you don’t like something, get involved. Sitting on your hands will get you nowhere. I’ve got 22 grandchildren and six great grandchildren. I hope and pray that one day they will follow in my footsteps and be concerned about making their neighbourhoods safe, clean environments. I don’t do these things to be noticed. You must be involved. I am my own neighbourhood watch!”

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WILLIE AND VERONICA SIMMERS COMMUNITY ACTIVISTS

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Couple of

courage • ILLIE AN VERONI A I

ER

Willie was one of the founding members of the electricity campaign in Mitchell’s Plain in the early 80s, the Rocklands Ratepayers Association and the Cape Housing Action Committee. He was also actively involved in the formation of the Mitchell’s Plain Crisis Line and the Mitchell’s Plain Community Advice and Development Project in 1982. Veronica has always been an active member of her community and has been involved in setting up a range of initiatives to support job creation for young people, the aged and single mothers. She is currently the Parliamentary Constituency Office Coordinator at the ANC Western Cape Provincial Legislature Caucus.

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illiam Simmers was involved in the struggle against apartheid and has known many a police cell. He was there with Trevor Manual and the late Jonny Issel during the formation of the United Democratic Front in 1983. He organised resistance campaigns in and around Mitchell’s Plain, and is still involved in drug, teen and pregnancy counselling. At 70 he is still a quiet, unassuming man doing what he knows best – changing lives. Willie hails from Johannesburg. His father was drafted into the army, where he was blinded, and the family then moved to Bellville South. Six months later his dad passed away. Willie moved to Mitchell’s Plain in 1979 and got another chance at happiness when he married his second wife, Veronica.

“We don’t stay in Mitchell’s Plain any more and would like to move back. But moving back would break my wife’s heart.”

Veronica is from Elsies River, where her parents lived in the back yard of a family member. Her asthma-suffering father was a labourer. Her mom, whom she describes as very clever, left school in standard six. She was one of 10 children. It was 1951. A sand dune divided Whites and Coloureds. Veronica’s family lived on the side called Elsies River; the Whites lived in Vasco. This was segregation. She was forced to leave school in standard nine to help support the family. “My father died and the state told my mother that his pension died with him. I was mad as hell! We were so poor. How could they do this? That’s when my militancy started. “I went to school at the age of four and met my future husband, Willie Simmers, when I was 16. My first job was at a laundry in Sea Point. From there I moved

to SA Nylon Spinners. I’d been there for three weeks when this handsome man walked into the factory. We got married 10 years later, when I was 26. Willie was an older man and very politically aware. It began to rub off on the young Veronica and her parents were scared. However, love persevered and they got married on 14 January 1978. They lived in a garage. But the young bride wanted her own home, even if it was in a back yard. Veronica heard from a friend about houses in Mitchell’s Plain. Willie worked at the Mitchell’s Plain Advice Office for 22 years and remembers how it all started. “Some people were first moved from District Six to areas like Bonteheuwel and then they were uprooted again to move to Mitchell’s Plain. Houses were

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WILLIE AND VERONICA SIMMERS COMMUNITY ACTIVISTS

(From the archives) allocated on a Sunday. The people would gather where all the estate agents were and you had to undergo a screening process. Then you had to wait for a call to tell you whether or not you got a house and where it was.” After paying a deposit of R350 they moved into Chat Street in Rocklands at the end of January 1979. A house would set you back R11 500. “But people were not allowed to pay

the whole amount in cash; you had to pay it off over a certain period of time. After all of this it worked out to R22 000. People came from living in rooms, back yards and so forth, and then moved into houses for the first time in their lives. The dynamics around this were staggering. Retailers and furniture stores had a field day. Business was done on a Sunday. People bought left, right and centre, and got into trouble with credit. There were no shops and people from outside came with combis selling basic stuff like eggs, bread and milk. “Things were expensive. There were no trains; they only started in Nyanga so you had to take a bus there. The houses were not well built. Mine was a semidetached house, but it was mine. I was very proud. There were so many bushes, and spiders as big as dinosaurs. We found snakes in our homes. We began to live in fear of these animals attacking us. Mitchell’s Plain was a dormitory town – no work, no factories. Families locked

“I lost my first child. It was the year 1980; I was 29. My son died in my arms 15 days after I gave birth to him … I blame the state.”

of myself.” Uppermost in the minds of the women was the fear of being raped or abused by the policemen.

their kids in their yards to go to work. It was hard.” Veronica remembers a time when people had no support networks to look after their kids. “My mom had to come and stay with us to look after my kids. I had to cross a dune from Rocklands to Woodlands to get a bus at an ungodly hour. There were no doctors; I had to go outside Mitchell’s Plain for checkups during my first pregnancy. I lost my first child. It was the year 1980; I was 29. My son died in my arms 15 days after I gave birth to him … I blame the state.” The couple was by now deeply involved with the local residents’ associations. Willie got to know political activist Jonny Issel very well and they started working together closely, the highlight of their work being the formation and launch of the UDF in Mitchell’s Plain. Life was difficult for the Simmers family because both of them were involved in political structures. Veronica was on the run from the police. Being involved in underground work meant that she spent time in detention. “During my first detention in Pollsmoor we were beaten up and humiliated. No mirrors, no way to look at yourself. It was like seeing the inside

Willie refused to run. He was in and out of detention. The police played havoc with his emotions, threatening to do things to his wife. “But our kids turned out well. They are educated. They are graduates. Some people’s kids were badly affected.” Willie’s hopes and wishes for Mitchell’s Plain? “That religious organisations make a bigger effort by training their members to stamp out substance abuse. That NGOs get the funding they need. That they get land to build a cemetery here. There are no cemeteries. It still is essentially a dormitory town. We don’t stay in Mitchell’s Plain any more and I would like to move back. But moving back would break my wife’s heart. She still cannot get over the fact that, after all our hard political work, the majority of the people of Mitchell’s Plain voted for the National Party.” And Veronica? “I want to be remembered as a woman who played a role in the liberation struggle. We are a proud people, we have a proud work ethic and we have contributed to the freedom of this country.”

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VIVIAN PETERSEN HUMANITARIAN

A comrade and a gentleman Vivian (better known as Vernie) Petersen was nominated as one of the heroes of Mitchell’s Plain, but sadly passed away before completion of the project. His chapter serves as a fitting finale to a process that shaped another perspective of a people and their place in history.

W • VIVIAN PE ER EN

Vivian Petersen was born in Cape Town on 22 March 1958. He started his professional life as a social worker in Mitchell’s Plain, focusing on youth work and children in need. He was chairperson of the South African Council for Developmental Social Welfare, special advisor to the Minister for Social Development, chief deputy commissioner for Correctional Services and in 2007 was appointed national commissioner for Correctional Services. A public row with his minister culminated in his transfer to Sport and Recreation South Africa as director-general in 2008, where he served until his untimely death after a short illness in February 2011.

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hen Vernie died it felt like someone ripped my heart out. He was like a disciple in my life and then he was gone.” This is how Veronica Simmers felt when she heard of Vernie’s death, and all who knew him share this sentiment. He was a quiet, soft-spoken man – gentle, patient, loving, kind and respectful. Many recall that, when they were introduced to him, he was the helping hand that guided them to understand their place in society, defining who they were and making them feel like they belonged – a great teacher and mentor to those around him. But it was his sense of justice that stood above all the tender traits of character he possessed. Vernie was relentless in his quest for justice, regardless of the cost. Due to his forthrightness in exposing injustice and fraud where he saw it, he was frequently sidelined and

forced to take a back seat in the new democratic dispensation. This took a heavy toll on his health and personal life, and eventually led to the illnesses that squeezed the life out of him. Vernie was part of an era when leaders were young and fearless, and is mentioned in the same breath as Zelda Holtzman, Trevor Oosterwyk, Elridge Simons, Trevor Manuel, June Petersen, Michael Weeder, Merlyn Lawrence, Bonita Bennet, Jonny Issel, Willie Simmers and many others. He started working at the Child Welfare Society sub-office in Mitchell’s Plain in 1980. At that time Mitchell’s Plain was comprised of six townships and housed about 250 000 people. He had just graduated with a Bachelors degree in social work from the University of the Western Cape. He loved working with youngsters and organised vacation camps for the kids

at places like the Rockland’s Civic Centre, where the children could express their creativity. He played an influential role on the Anglican Church’s Board of Social Responsibility, and led groups to become subjects for exploring issues of Christian responsibility and practical action. But a man is not made up of principles alone; it is the anecdotal stuff that survives in our memories long after the person has gone. Vernie had a Volkswagen Beetle and many an activist got a ride and has a memory attached to it. Not far behind were the joyful, playful strains of music from an eclectic, selfstyled repertoire flowing from his mouth organ or guitar. Vivian Petersen was the perfect gentleman and had a steely sense of integrity. (Sources: Bonita Bennett; Merlyn Lawrence)

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DR LUDMILA OMMUNDSEN PESSOA RESEARCHER

From geographies of power to

humanities of empowerment “A map of the world that does not include Utopia is not worth even glancing at, for it leaves out the one country at which Humanity is always landing.” ~OSCAR WILDE1

I. Mitchell’s Plain: Atopia Humanistic geographers (Tuan 1974, Rose 1995)2, sensitive to the role of subject in creating and articulating symbols, have stressed that people display a tendency to identify – positively or negatively – with particular places. As they weave specific bonds with places, some resulting from nature and others reflecting particular circumstances, territories are formed that become integral components of self and group identities. Apartheid’s essence was geographical and its ideologists “went as far as to

sacrifice territorial integrity and relations between the groups to racial order” (Fauvelle-Aymar 2006, 359)3. Yet, although apartheid’s “malevolent geographies” “are not so easily overcome” (Elder 2003 & 2004)4, one also realises that “South Africa’s transition to a society built on the foundations of a human rights ethos is a long process that requires constant reflection. Depending on how they engage with their world, young South Africans growing up in a society where apartheid laws have gone present an opportunity to develop a model of tackling the legacy of apartheid” (Makhalemele 2005)5.

Wilde, O. “The soul of man under socialism” (1891). The Works of Oscar Wilde. Leicester: Galley Press, 1987. 2 Tuan, Y. Topophilia: A Study of Environmental Perception, Attitudes and Values. Prentice Hall, Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey, 1974. Rose, G. “Place and identity” in D. Massey and P. Jess, eds. A Place In the World? Places, Culture and Globalization. Oxford University Press, 1995. 3 Fauvelle-Aymar, FX. Histoire de l’Afrique du Sud. Paris: Le Seuil, 2006. 4 Elder, GS. Malevolent Geographies: Sex, Space, and the Apartheid Legacy. Columbus: Ohio State University Press, 2004. 5 Makhalemele, O. “Race and identity in schools: Young South Africans engaging with a changing environment”. Race and Citizenship in Transition Series. Centre for the Study of Violence and Reconciliation, Johannesburg, 2005, http: //www.csvr.org.za, accessed on 30 January 2007. 1

Apartheid spatial development gave rise to the emergence of huge townships such as Soweto, Mitchell’s Plain and Khayelitsha6. In most cases people were uprooted from established communities and placed in areas far from the city, with few resources and very little sense of community. The development of Mitchell’s Plain was grounded on “research [that] is one of the first of its kind in South Africa … The research was based on a model of similar research in the United States of America and United Kingdom” and claimed to be “one of the most advanced public housing developments in the world, providing a highly satisfactory

quality of life,” comparable to models researched in the United States and United Kingdom (LB Lewis, quoted by Riley 1980, 16)7. Undeniably, Mitchell’s Plain “was planned as a segregated, selfsufficient dormitory suburb far removed from the white areas of the city, but also isolated from the black and Indian communities. … Mitchell’s Plain is the third-busiest nodal interchange in the City of Cape Town, with about 75 000 commuters in the morning and evening peak hours” (DPLG & BTrust 2005, 4)8. The records of the Department of Community Development and State Auxiliary

6 See Japha, D. & Huchzermeyer, M. The History of the Development of Townships in Cape Town 1920-1992, The Integration and Urbarnisation of Existing Townships in South Africa. Working paper n°2, University of Newcastle and University of Cape Town, 1995. 7 Riley, D.G.D. The Snape Memorial Lecture: “Mitchell’s Plain, civil engineering and more”. Delivered at the University of Cape Town, 1980. 8 Department of Provincial and Local Government & Business Trust. “Mitchell’s Plain nodal economic development profile”, 2005. See “Mitchell’s Plain narrative” on http://www.btrust.org.za/index.php?id=185, accessed on 10 January 2010.

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Services indicate that this development started in 1974, three years after the existing government gave the Cape Town City Council the green light to plan Mitchell’s Plain. It was intended to alleviate housing shortages among the Coloured community in Cape Town, with the complementary aim of absorbing some of the allegedly “threatening” Coloured population growth whose “rate … ranks amongst the highest in the world … [being] estimated to be about 3,0% per annum (2,2% for Whites)” (Brand 1976, 1)9. Paradoxically, in May 1966 the Department of Planning had advertised its intention to proclaim Mitchell’s Plain for White occupation (Morris 1972, 2)10. As the officials of the era argued, “the development of Mitchell’s Plain is not merely another housing scheme: what is contemplated is an entirely new and up to date town, complete with all essential communal facilities to accommodate a population of some quarter of a million inhabitants … In developing a new town, therefore, the principal aim is to create

an environment in which the citizen will be provided with all the opportunities necessary to enjoy a full life” (Morris 1972, Introduction)11. Its alleged aim was to create a “sense of identity” among residents; a “village effect” (Pinnock 1984, 47)12. The project was presented as unusual in the sense that it was specifically designed for the Coloured population of Cape Town. Goldin (1987) states that the term “Coloured” may have officially appeared in the British Census of 190413. Melville Edelstein (1973) wrote that the Coloureds “particularly regard themselves as South African. … They have, incidentally, a better claim to that title than anyone” 14 as the Coloured people have their origin in the arrival of the Dutch East India company in 1652 and the subsequent amalgam of groups from Europe, Africa and Asia (local Khoisan people and slaves from East Africa, Madagascar, Ceylon, Bengal and the East Indies)15. Yet, as Leggett (2004, 21) notes, “[t]here is not, nor has there ever been, a clear definition of the population group referred to as ‘coloured’,

Brand, J.G. Mitchell’s Plain, Cape Town’s New City, a paper presented to a conference on the long-term development of the Western Cape, held in Cape Town on 24 and 25 November 1976, and arranged by the National Development and Management Foundation. 10 Morris, S.S Good Hope, A First Report On the Development of Mitchell’s Plain. Ref D.63/2, report D 22/72, Cape Town, 1972. 11 Idem supra. 12 Pinnock, D. The Brotherhoods: Street Gangs and State Control in Cape Town. Cape Town: D. Philip, 1984. 13 Golding, I. Mixing Race: The Politics and the Economics of Coloured Identity in South Africa. Cape Town: Maskew Miller Longman, 1987. 14 Edelstein, M. The Star, Johannesburg, 15 September 1973. Quoted in Western J. “Africa is coming to the Cape”, American Geographical Review, vol. 91-4 (Oct 2001): 617-640, 619. 15 Although Coloured people are a minority group in South Africa – 9% of the country population according to the 2001 Census data – they are the majority in the Western Cape and the Northern Cape: Coloured people represent 54% of the population of the Western Cape, followed by Black (27%), White (18%) and Indian people (1%), and 52% of the Northern Cape, followed by Black (36%), White (12%) and Indian people (less than 1%). The 2001 Census recorded the size of the Mitchell’s Plain 9

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and the usefulness of the term has been questioned. But it does refer to a group of people who, rightly or wrongly, were lumped together in the past and therefore share a common history. This history has often been a troubled one. The commonly heard lament is that coloured people were not ‘white enough’ under apartheid and are not ‘black enough’ in the new democracy. The sense of this complaint is that coloured people continue to feel socially excluded, even under democracy”16. When the Cape Town City Council felt the need to develop a massive housing program for Coloured families, planning studies indicated that the only remaining large piece of land was the 3 100-hectare property known as Mitchell’s Plain17. In 1972 the city engineer, Dr. S.S. Morris, proposed that a name should be given to the new town, since this development project was “equal in magnitude to many of the new towns of Britain and Europe”. He insisted that, “[s]ince it represents a major extension of the far eastern boundary of the City of Cape Town, it

is recommended that the name GOEIE HOOP should be adopted for the town as a whole” (Morris 1972, 27)18. Nevertheless, Mitchell’s Plain remained Mitchell’s Plain: the name of the farm associated with the Cape’s first surveyor general, Colonel Charles C. Mitchell (Bulletin, City of Cape Town 1981, 8)19. The central importance of names and naming in all cultures has been extensively researched. Indeed, the “very act of naming geographical entities implies a power over them, most particularly over the ways in which places, their inhabitants and their social function get represented” (Harvey 1990, 419)20, and without naming, a space is not a place (Feld & Basso 1996)21. Therefore, the very act of not having renamed Mitchell’s Plain is unsettling. The relocated people were symbolically dispossessed of beginning, conceiving or creating. They were relocated in a place interpreted, narrated, perceived, felt and imagined without them. They were forcibly integrated into another(’s) history.

population at 305,343 people, 84,2% of whom indicated their population group as Coloured, 14,9% as African Black, 0.6% as Indian and 0.3% as White. 16 Leggett, T. “Still marginal. Crime in the coloured community”. Institute for Security Studies. Crime Quarterly 7 (2004): 21-26. 17 “Mitchell’s Plain, Motivation for the Mitchell’s Plain Project to receive the Award of the Most Outstanding Civil Engineering Achievement of 1979 of the South African Institution of Civil Engineers”. Prepared on behalf of the Municipal Division of the South African Institution of Civil Engineers’ Department. Cape Town, April 1980: 1. 18 Morris, S.S. Good Hope, A first report on the development of Mitchell’s Plain. Ref D.63/2, report D 22/72, Cape Town, 1972. 19 Bulletin. City of Cape Town Civic Newsletter. Vol. 2-8 (May 1981), 8. 20 Harvey, D. “Between space and time: reflections on the geographical imagination”. Annals of the Association of American Geographers 80 (1990): 418-34. 21 Feld S. & Basso K.H., eds. Senses of Place. Santa Fe, New Mexico: School of American Research Press, 1996.

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II. Dystopia: Mitchell’s Plain as a place of poverty, violence, drugs and despair Mitchell’s Plain is situated in a district that “represents some of the most marginalised areas in the city” and includes Crossroads, Khayelitsha and Philippi. The district has the largest population of any district, with the highest population density, the highest unemployment in the city and the “worst ‘social fabric’ crime rates of all districts”: it is “the worst off of all districts in terms of levels of living. … This has implications for regeneration, job creation, youth and skills development in the district” (Van Heyningen 2007, 92, 94, 97)22. Work by Seekings and Nattrass (2005)23 shows that the advancement of Blacks (Africans and Coloureds) into the top professional and managerial jobs – which were once the preserve of Whites – is a significant feature of the post-apartheid period. Although Schwabe (2004) states that the gap between rich and poor

has widened – inequality being defined across race lines24 – the Nodal Economic Profiling Project by the Business Trust and the Department of Provincial and Local Government (DPLG) (2007, 13) says that “overall, poverty levels have declined – more steeply in urban than rural areas, but on average poverty has declined across all the nodes of ISRDP and URP25. This has been driven in part … by on-going provision of infrastructure. But … the drop in poverty levels … has also been driven by widespread access (in these very poor areas) to social grants provided by the Department of Social Development”26. Examining patterns of occupational mobility among Blacks (Africans and Coloureds) in the Mitchell’s Plain Magisterial District (MPMD), Ziervogel and Crankshaw (2009)27 distinguish similarities and differences to studies conducted in South Africa and other countries. There are similarities in that the expansion of the clerical, sales and service occupational class, and a contraction of the skilled and semi-

22 Van Heyningen, E. “Planning districts socio-economic analysis”. Strategic Development Information and GIS Department, Strategic Information Branch, 11 October 2007, City of Cape Town. 23 Seekings, J. & Nattrass, K. Class, Race and Inequality in South Africa. New Haven: Yale University Press, 2005. 24 Schwabe, C. “Fact sheet: Poverty in South Africa”. Human Sciences Research Council, July 2004. Regional Southern African Regional Poverty Network. See http://www.sarpn.org.za, accessed on 9 January 2010. South Africa has one of the highest Gini coefficients in the world. 25 “President Thabo Mbeki announced the Integrated Sustainable Rural Development Programme (ISRDP) and the Urban Renewal Programme (URP) in February 2001 during the State of the Nation Address. The aim of these programmes was articulated as being: ‘To conduct a sustained campaign against rural and urban poverty and underdevelopment, bringing in the resources of all three spheres of government in a coordinated manner.’ Cabinet mandated the Department of Provincial and Local Government (DPLG) as the national coordinating institution for the ISRDP/URP, but the successful implementation of the programmes relies on the involvement of all the stakeholders. Twenty-One (21) Rural and Urban nodes were

skilled manual occupational class have contributed to levels of upward mobility for Blacks (Africans and Coloureds) in the MPMD. The differences, however, are more significant. Unlike the inter-national studies, downward mobility exceeded upward mobility. Those respondents who have been upwardly mobile in terms of occupational mobility are more likely to have moved out of the area or simply never have resided there. The MPMD is not home to the top professional and managerial Black (African and Coloured) middle class. Respondents in the MPMD were downwardly mobile across many occupational class positions. High-ranked and more middle-class occupational positions of the parents are in fact precarious (offering the lowest incomes), and do not ensure the transmission of advantage from the parents to their children, with downward mobility outside of these borderline occupations being predominantly of the long-range kind. Set against this gloomy background, the economic snapshot of the Business Trust

and DPLG (2007) offers little solace, as “Mitchell’s Plain has by far the best commercial environment of all the poverty nodes; the community has reasonable disposable income, commercial developments are easily accessible, and limited spending leaves the area as most goods are found in the node. The area has two large shopping malls and is close to retail malls in the adjacent Khayelitsha. Innovative developments such as the Station Plaza have created commercial and employment opportunities for local businesspeople and should be replicated elsewhere”28. Mitchell’s Plain has been hard hit with domestic violence and drug-related crime. Daphne Jansen, director of the Network Opposing Women Abuse in Mitchell’s Plain, stated that 75% of the 400 protection-order cases they had dealt with at the Mitchell’s Plain Magistrate’s Court between January and April 2008 were related to domestic violence. While acknowledging a combination of several factors, she stressed that

announced, representing the largest concentrations of poverty in South Africa. It is estimated that these nodes (urban and rural) are home to more than 10 million people. The common features of these nodes are that they are areas of severe neglect, where poverty is at it most endemic. The programmes have a ten-year life span”. In The Western Cape the ISRDP is the Central Karoo and the URP are Khayelitsha and Mitchell’s Plain. See http://isrdp.dplg.gov.za, accessed on 10 January 2010. 26 Business Trust & Department of Provincial and Local Government. “Nodal Economic Profiling Project. Economic Snapshot Comparisons 2007”. http://www.btrust. org.za, accessed on 10 January 2010. 27 Ziervogel, C. & Crankshaw, O. “Inter-generational occupational mobility amongst blacks in the Mitchell’s Plain magisterial district, Cape Town: Evidence from the Khayelitsha/Mitchell’s Plain survey”. Urban Forum 20 (2009): 235-251. 28 Business Trust & DPLG. “Mitchell’s Plain summary 2007” on http://www.btrust.org.za/index.php?id=185, accessed on 10 January 2010. See also Business Trust & Department of Provincial and Local Government. “Nodal Economic Profiling Project”, “Economic Snapshot Comparisons”. 2007.

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poverty and unemployment played a major role in contributing to domestic violence29. The abuse of tik (methamphetamine) is widespread in Mitchell’s Plain. Between April and November 2008 tests were carried out across the country as part of the first drug-driving report put together by Trimega Diagnostics, working with the South African Police Service (SAPS) and traffic officers in Gauteng and the Western Cape. The report showed that a startling number of Cape Town motorists pulled over at roadblocks tested positive for drugs, with a third of Mitchell’s Plain drivers testing positive for tik30. Mitchell’s Plain sadly presents the highest rate of drug-related crime in South Africa. SAPS statistics show that such crimes increased from 829 for the period April 2003 to March 2004 to 5 705 for the period April 2008 to March 2009 – a 344% rise. On 30 March 2009 Minister of Justice and

Constitutional Development, Enver Surty, opened nine new courts at the Mitchell’s Plain Magistrate’s Court in a move to deal with domestic violence and drug-related issues in the area. Meanings that individuals and groups assign to places are sustained by diverse imageries through which cities are seen and remembered (Boyer 1994)31. Places are made or destroyed as people ascribe qualities to what is gathered there (Harris 1999)32. Poverty, drugs and violence have become the interpretative frame through which people in Mitchell’s Plain measure their lives/have their lives measured, evaluate/are evaluated by others and make sense/are made sense of. People in Mitchell’s Plain are seen as/see themselves in and from an “evil” place, distant from the “good” metropolis33. In The Location of Culture (1994, 99) Homi Bhabha discusses the unsettled etymology of the word “territory”, which

“Money woes fuel domestic violence”, Cape Argus, June 16, 2008: 5. 30 “Why do SA motorists see double?”. Cape Times, November 26, 2008, 1. See also Trimega Diagnostics/DrugAlyzer website for details: http://www.drugalyzer.co.za/news.htm. 31 Boyer, C. The City of Collective Memory: Its Historical Imagery and Architectural Entertainments. Cambridge: MIT Press, 1994. This describes a series of different visual and mental models by which the urban environment has been recognised, depicted, and planned. Boyer identifies three major “maps”: one common to the traditional city – the city as a work of art; one characteristic of the modern city – the city as panorama; and one appropriate to the contemporary city – the city as spectacle. 32 Harris, D. “‘Property values drop when blacks move in, because…’

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“derives from both terra (earth) and terrere (to frighten), hence territorium, ‘a place from which people are frightened off’”34. Mitchell’s Plain can still be seen as a territory, as the perception of one’s neighbourhood as dangerous increases the frequency of symptoms of depression, anxiety and oppositional defiant disorder among adolescents (Aneshensel & Sucoff 1996)35. III. “Uprouting” Mitchell’s Plain Although Mitchell’s Plain seems to cast – or to be only cast into – a dramatic shadow, “[p]eople, events and places can be put into the service of nation-building and affirmation. This means that nations require a history built around these elements in order to sustain their existence and meaning in the eyes of their nationals” (Storey 2001, 76)36. Having been displaced, the population of Mitchell’s Plain should not remain misplaced if

not “dysplaced”. History is a key element in the construction of the nation. Despite the human tragedies, the socioeconomic tensions and the political challenges that came in the wake of the forced relocations, many people from Mitchell’s Plain have risen to prominence and continue to influence public life in various ways. Amongst the turning-point episodes of the struggle, the United Democratic Front was officially launched in Mitchell’s Plain in 1983. It played an important role as a transitional front in preparing the ground for leaders of the liberation movement to negotiate with the apartheid government, return from exile or prison and take over power (Van Kessel 1990, 132)37. “Place must be more than (say) racial proportions of neighbourhoods, unemployment rates in cities, birth rates in nationstates. Here place becomes a stand-in

Racial and socioeconomic determinants of neighborhood desirability”. American Sociological Review 64 (June 1999): 461-479. 33 For an analysis of an ethnographic study of a pseudonymous exurban English village in Hampshire, see Bell M.M. Childerley: Nature and Morality in a Country Village. Chicago University Press, 1994. 34 Bhabha, H. The Location of Culture. London: Routledge, 1994. 35 Aneshensel, C.S. & Sucoff, C.A. “The neighborhood context of adolescent mental health”. Journal of Health and Social Behavior 37 (1996): 293-310. 36 Storey, D. Territory: The Claiming of Space. Harlow: Prentice Hall, 2001. 37 Van Kessel, I. “Le United Democratic Front en Afrique du Sud: Un Mouvement de Transition?” Politique Africaine 38 (1990): 126-132.

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for clusters of variables located in spaces chosen for their analytic utility but generally denuded of architecture, landscape, and actors ‘own narration’” (Gieryn 2000, 466)38. The scientific framing of Mitchell’s Plain gives a partial or incomplete view of the township, as it dehumanises it. Without criticising or denying the necessity, the importance and the relevance of thorough scientific research that has been undertaken in the socioeconomic fields, Tuan (1990, 435, 443) rightfully stresses that “[r]ealism may be necessary to survival, but unless people are also touched by fantasy, they risk imprisonment in their own narrow world. … [Fantasy] plays a key role in the enlivenment and transformation of culture. … What fantasy envisages may be bizarre, yet a surpassing strangeness serves the cause of a larger truth if it is able to lift even for a moment deadening layers of habit and belief”39.

It has become evident that giving residents a stake in the process of placemaking leads to greater civic interest and participation in subsequent public-policy deliberation (Brain 2008)40, and, as Massey (2004, 7) emphasises, “[i]t may indeed, further, be a crucial political stake to challenge and change the hegemonic identity of place and the way in which the denizens of a particular locality imagine it and thereby avail themselves of the imaginative resources to reconstruct it”41. “Place is a unique spot in the universe. Place is a distinction between here and there, and it is what allows people to appreciate near and far” (Gieryn, 2000, 464)42. Mitchell’s Plain is a unique spot in the universe. As Etheringthon (2001, x) remarks, “if historians do not set about writing new narrative histories of South Africa, the old ones will survive”, and undoubtedly “[m]any of the ‘old’ histories clearly serve the interests of formerly

38 Gieryn T.F. “A Space for Place in Sociology”. Annual Review of Sociology 2000: 463-496. 39 Tuan Y. “Realism and Fantasy in Art, History, and Geography”. Annals of the Association of American Geographers 80-3 (1990): 435-446. 40 Brain, D. “Beyond the neighborhood: New Urbanism as civic renewals”. Tigran, H, ed. New Urbanism and Beyond: Designing Cities for the Future. New York: Rizzoli, 2008: 249-254. 41 Massey D. “Geographies of responsibility”. Geografiska Annaler: Series B. Human

dominant social formations whose day will not come again”43. The Mitchell’s Plain Oral History Project strongly intends to present the diversity and complementary human configurations of Mitchell’s Plain within the “revolutionary romanticism” stream. While hoping to arouse the interest of the general public, academics and official authorities, the primary target of what may be construed as the reclaiming of a symbolical territory is to give a dignified, multifaceted perspective to the past and present population of Mitchell’s Plain, so as to build and develop a history of trust. People more easily recall places that they associate with significant events in their lives. “Place attachments result from accumulated biographical experiences: we associate places with the fulfilling, terrifying, traumatic, triumphant, secret events that happen to us personally

there” (Gieryn 2000, 481)44. Listening to the voices of the past and giving voice to the ideals of the future, this publication aims to unfold the past history and the recovered histories of Mitchell’s Plain and its people – those who settled, those who cut their political teeth, those who contributed to development, and those who have inspired the many others who have taken over the baton to continue to develop it into a place of hope and possibilities. “Self-esteem seems to be one such resource that functions to maintain individuals and social relationships” (Cast & Burke 2002, 1048)45. Counteracting the fragmenting forces of its uprooting, the “uprouting” of Mitchell’s Plain will evolve from geographies of power to achieve humanities of empowerment.

Geography 86-1 (2004): 5-18. 42 Gieryn T.F. “A Space for Place in Sociology”. Annual Review of Sociology 2000, 463-496. 43 Etheringthon, N. The Great Treks: The Transformation of South Africa 1815-1854, London: Longman, 2001. 44 Gieryn T.F. “A Space for Place in Sociology”. Annual Review of Sociology 2000, 463-496. 45 Cast A.D. & Burke P.J. “A Theory of Self-Esteem”. Social Forces 80-3. (2002): 1041-1068.

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WINNING STORY

Mitchell’s Plain in the year 2050

INSAAF ISAACS, 16 SPINE ROAD HIGH SCHOOL

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itchell’s Plain as we know it is exposed to both negative and positive aspects. In my opinion, the positive overrides the negative. Every community has unemployment, drug abuse and poverty, but because of dedicated social workers, policemen, educators and citizens who care, one person’s life is changed on a daily basis, and that is an enormous achievement. If every citizen in Mitchell’s Plain were devoted to helping his or her neighbour, then who would need help? We have the right and the will to change any situation we are exposed to. Parents are more interested in their children’s education, making their future brighter. Policemen are visible on every corner and in isolated areas, and the neighbourhood watch makes us feel safer in our homes. I believe that if we were to enforce all these positive actions daily, Mitchell’s Plain would be an extraordinary place with many successful achievements because of the potential we have.

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Mitchell’s Plain is the largest Coloured township in the Western Cape and, because of its size, the rate of corruption is higher. The government plays an important role in the transformation of Mitchell’s Plain. Their decisions are powerful and can make a huge difference. There are various methods that could lessen the rate of corruption. One important factor is to enforce the death penalty on people who commit serious offences such as rape and murder. Mitchell’s Plain in the year 2050 will be one of the most uplifted communities in the country. I see it as a place filled with successful people who make a positive impact in their lives and the lives of others, despite coming from an area that was once known as being underprivileged. These hard-working and loyal inhabitants of Mitchell’s Plain will create many job opportunities for unemployed and uneducated individuals. Because certain individuals will have more self-esteem and hope, the interference of crime will be less. The year 2050 will hold many great opportunities for

everyone who has had misfortune in their lives. Mitchell’s Plain will become the town that everyone will be proud to be part of. People will no longer live in swamps and shacks but will all be proud owners of houses with running water, electricity and proper sanitation systems, all part of a more suitable and stable environment. Awareness will be increased by different organisations about HIV and AIDS, making people more conscious of their daily activities and playing a tremendous role in reducing overcrowding of hospitals and clinics. I personally think that the pregnancy rate amongst teenagers will decrease because of this awareness. The youth will have all the technology available to them and this will create more opportunities for them to broaden their horizons. As I witness the potential of every human being that holds Mitchell’s Plain close to their heart, I am certain that we will do our best to make this place a legacy that will live for many years to come.

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ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS

“History is never simply a chronicle of the past. It is always a challenge to contemporary thought for the future.” ARCHBISHOP TREVOR HUDDLESTON (OLIVER TAMBO: BEYOND THE ENGELI MOUNTAINS)

ORGANISATIONAL SUPPORT This book was compiled under the auspices of the Artscape Theatre Centre and the Alliance Française of Mitchell’s Plain. Project Management: Amanda Barnes & Nolan Africa Archives & Research: Merle Fred & Caroline Ballery Alliance Française Exhibition: Mike De Beer ADJUDICATORS Short-story competition: Dr Nwabisa Bangeni Dr Wayne Alexander Prof Ibrahim Saleh

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Poster competition: Artscape, Alliance Française and Iziko Museums SPONSORS This publication was made possible by the following organisations: EMBASSY OF FRANCE IN SOUTH AFRICA & CONSULATE OF FRANCE IN CAPE TOWN Financial support: Guy de la Chevalerie (Counsellor, Head of Cooperation) Antoine Michon (Consul General of France in Cape Town) Georges Lory (Délégué Général, Alliance Française of South Africa)

DEPARTMENT OF SOCIAL DEVELOPMENT (WESTERN CAPE) Funded youth capacity-building and satellite-arts activities. GRANDWEST CAPE CULTURE AND HERITAGE FOUNDATION ’n Plekkie in die son – The Musical, a celebration of the exceptional talent of Mitchell’s Plain (director: Basil Appollis), and the Mitchell’s Plain Exhibition. SUIDOOSTER FESTIVAL Hosting the book launch, exhibition and premiere of the musical production.

IZIKO Facilitating the arts workshops in Mitchell’s Plain. SPECIAL THANKS Institutions and individuals from Mitchell’s Plain who gave their time and support to the project: Mitchell’s Plain Libraries Mitchell’s Plain Primary and High Schools Mika Williams, reporter, The Plainsman (community newspaper) Mitchell’s Plain Taxi Association (Hazeldene Rank)

ABSA Prizes for poster and short-story winners.

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ENDORSEMENTS

Some 10 years ago Artscape, as a leading arts institution, had the vision of taking theatre to the people by establishing a satellite theatre in Mitchell’s Plain. This was done in partnership with the Alliance Française in Mitchell’s Plain, and aimed to establish a performing-arts platform for the residents living about 20 kilometres from the Artscape Theatre Centre in the city centre. Over the past few years, through various arts presentations, the rich heritage of Mitchell’s Plain and its people has unfolded in this satellite theatre. It has become clear that there is a need to capture those empowering stories of people who changed the course of history and prompted positive change for posterity. These stories of Mitchell’s Plain and its people will hopefully become a source of inspiration to everybody. MICHAEL MAAS, CEO, ARTSCAPE

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The Mitchell’s Plain Oral History Project has once again reminded us how brutal the apartheid policies of influx control, forced removals and segregation were. The trauma caused to individuals and their families has left very deep scars. Stories such as these also tell of the resilience of the human spirit and the heroic bread-and-butter struggles that were waged by women and men under the most difficult conditions. Our work and efforts must be about creating communities of hope where our youth in particular have role models to respect and look up to. Through this project the past is being linked to the present and the future, as we continue the struggle for an end to poverty and inequality, and for hope and prosperity. TREVOR MANUEL, MINISTER IN THE PRESIDENCY FOR NATIONAL PLANNING

Mitchell’s Plain was home to a number of prominent anti-apartheid activists and the seat of the UDF during the 1980’s. However, we are in danger of losing this colourful history, mainly because Mitchell’s Plain has become more renowned for its high crime rate, drug abuse and gangsterism. It is crucial that we prevent this from happening and I therefore welcome this book, which tells the life stories of 24 residents who lived in Mitchell’s Plain over the last few decades. They have touched the lives of community members, either through their art, political activism, entrepreneurship or social initiatives. This book will help change some of the negative perceptions and highlight what can be achieved through community interventions.

Mitchell’s Plain is the place where I spent my formative teenage years. It’s the place where I became a young woman. Problematic as its birth was, Mitchell’s Plain nurtured the best in us. The personalities in this book show us an inkling of how much this enclave has to offer. This book reflects the journey of the people who gave a sprawling housing complex its identity. It celebrates those who fought for change, and those who used their talents to showcase what Cape Town and South Africa have to offer. These stories show us how people will survive, thrive and rise beyond the toughest conditions. LYNNE BROWN, OPPOSITION LEADER, WESTERN CAPE

Complex plural societies need to express themselves and claim their space in the public discourse. Through this Oral History Project, the voices of Mitchell’s Plain, can now claim that space. Outsiders now have a better and deeper understanding of the social, cultural and political past of Mitchell’s Plain, and this can help in facilitating a proper dialogue about the future. I want to congratulate the community for documenting, in a participatory way, the stories of Mitchell’s Plain. DR IVAN H MEYER, MINISTER OF CULTURAL AFFAIRS AND SPORT, WESTERN CAPE PROVINCIAL GOVERNMENT

Mitchells Plain: A Place in the Sun tells us the story of a formidable community. Each of the outstanding individuals portrayed in this book gives us an insight into a group of people who went through great pain under the apartheid regime but stayed true to their core values of equality and solidarity. Each of these men and women gives us hope for the future of Cape Town as an integrated and vibrant African city. ANTOINE MICHON, CONSUL GENERAL OF FRANCE IN CAPE TOWN

Mitchell’s Plain has a cultural character and history that is unique even in a country as diverse as South Africa. Its uniqueness comes directly from the strength, unity and resilience of its people. The wonderful and engaging stories of real people captured in “A Place in the Sun, Mitchell’s Plain” reinforces the pride I feel in being a resident and representative of this community, which has a rich history to look back on and a prosperous future to look forward to. GRANT PASCOE, MAYORAL COMMITTEE MEMBER FOR TOURISM, EVENTS AND MARKETING  CITY OF CAPE TOWN

HELEN ZILLE, PREMIER, WESTERN CAPE

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Mitchells Plain  
Mitchells Plain  

THE STORY OF MITCHELL’S PLAIN AS TOLD BY ITS PEOPLE 1974 – 2011

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