South Africa: Reflecting On Public Spaces As Bulldozers Make History in District Six


The bulldozers and excavators are back in District Six. This time to build.

It was unexpected. No one came around to even just put a note in the postbox. On Friday 26 June 2020 at just past 7.30am the shudder of excavators' front buckets tearing into the ground started.

It was the first sign - in nearly two decades - of movement in the restitution of District Six. The process has been marked by politicking and bureaucratic snafus, divisiveness and court action - but also determination to get justice and restitution, right back to the 1988 launch of Hands Off District Six.

It comes some 16 years and five months after South Africa's first democratically elected president, Nelson Mandela, on 11 February 2004 handed the keys of the first two of 24 homes to District Six beneficiaries Ebrahim Murat, 87, and Dan Ndzabela, 82 - the elders who returned from Retreat and Gugulethu respectively.

That date - 11 February - was not an accident. Mandela was released from jail on that day in 1990. District Six was declared white under the Group Areas Act on that day in 1966.

By 1982, 60,000 residents had been forcibly removed, shattering their lives,...

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