South Africa: They Took Away Our House, They Took Away Our Neighbourhood, They Took Away Our Lives

Farmland in the Overberg region of the Western Cape (file photo).

Land expropriation without compensation has sparked intense debate throughout the country, in most instances splitting South Africans on racial lines. My family -- and my wife's family -- were victims of expropriation too: property expropriation during the high noon of apartheid. Here is my story...

In the 1960s, in Myburgh Road, Diep River, in the southern suburbs of Cape Town, the Group Areas Act hung and hovered, swinging this way and that, teasing the area's largely working-class community into a false sense of security.

Most of the houses in the road were in a state of disrepair - and so when Group officials came to tell residents they would have to move, the news was greeted with ambivalence by most people.

The writer's mother, known to everyone as Dot, behind Aunt Murie's house, No 1 Myburgh Road, Diep River. (Photo: supplied)

Some were worried about having to move; others thought that better housing was not an unattractive proposition.

I was at primary school then, and like other children my age, knew most people in the neighbourhood.

We lived opposite the Methodist Church's cemetery in a rented house with an enclosed stoep that my mother, a formidable matriarch known to everyone...

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