The ruins on Redhill Village and Luyoloion the mountains of Simon’s Town – sad reminders of the forced removals under the Group Areas Act
On a recent hike with a hiking group from the U3A which led from Redhill Road around the dams above Simon’s Town, I was enchanted by the colourful display of gladioli in front of the ruins of houses of the once flourishing Redhill Village.
Intrigued and saddened by the sombre silence of the ruins I approached Cathy Salter-Jansen, curator of Simon’s Town Museum, for information about the old homesteads. She and her colleague, Margaret Constant of Ocean View, filled me in on the history.
Margaret and her family once lived at Redhill Village, before they were wrenched out of their comfortable homes in 1970 and moved to the barren flatlands of the new
village of Ocean View as a result of the infamous Group Areas Act. Ostensibly they were being moved because of the construction of a large dam in their valley. The dam was never built, and the man who issued the removal documents to the devastated inhabitants of the little village was the same man who issued the Group Areas Act removal notices to the “Coloured“ residents of Simon’s Town, resulting in speculation as to whether the “proposed dam” was merely a red herring.
“We did not want to move,” said Margaret. “I was a little girl of nine years of age at the time. As children we lived a free life at Redhill Village, playing in the fynbos and walking down the long road to the beach. Our fathers walked to work in the Simon’s Town dockyard. We had our own vegetable patches and gardens. The first night in our new flat in Ocean View I was awoken by a gang fight going on outside my window. The people who had been moved there from Noordhoek were different from the people who were moved from the Simon’s Town area. We came from different backgrounds. Apart from that, people were emotionally stressed. Families and friends had been ripped apart.”
“We had big homes in Redhill Village. In Ocean View we were moved into tiny flats. We had to leave a lot of our furniture out on the streets to be taken away as it did not fit into our rooms. We lost valuable family heirlooms. Our communities were old and integrated. It was an enormous wrench to be moved out of the area where our parents and grandparents had lived to a place where there was no transport and there were no schools. Our parents were far from their work in Simon’s Town. At Redhill Village they had lived a healthy lifestyle, walking the several kilometres to and from work in Simon’s Town. In Ocean View people became ill and died. We lost our social infra-structure. Many of the old people just pined away.”
The first people to be forcibly removed from Redhill Village were settled in Heathfield and Retreat. The others were all moved to the new township of Ocean View. In 1993/4 some of the original residents instituted a landclaim, but this was denied as a “golf course was planned for the area.” The golf course did not materialise either and the land on Redhill still lies fallow.
“The older people do not want to move back. There is quite a lot of bitterness and the memories are painful. It is the younger people who are fighting for their land rights,” says Margret.
The forced removals started on 1 Sept 1967. Four to five families would receive their notices at a time, each being given merely a week to move to their new accommodation. The Simon’s Town Municipality provided trucks for the transportation of their workers and their families and possessions to their new homes, but those who did not work for the municipality or Navy had to pay the costs for their own removal.
Behind the present Kelp factory lived the oldest African community in Cape Town, in an area known as Luyolo. The original inhabitants had come from the Eastern Cape in the late 1800s to work on the construction of the railway line between Muizenberg and Simon’s Town which was built between 1883 and 1890. Once the line had been completed, many moved to Luyola in the valley behind the present day Kelp Factory as they found work with the Simon’s Town municipality and in the dockyard where the East Dock was under construction (1901-1910). The 1500 members of the community were given one week to move to Gugulethu – at a time when the children were studying for their “mock matric” exams. Their land still lies unused, the terraces on which their houses stood obscured by undergrowth.
“There was a very large Kindo clan in Simon’s Town,” says Cathy. The original Kindo ancestor was on board a slave ship which was being pursued by the Royal Navy involved in the abolition of the slave trade. When the crew members of the pirate slave ship realised they would have to contend with the might of the British navy, they tossed all the slaves overboard along the Cape coast. Many drowned, but the forefather of the Kindo family in Simon’s Town was rescued by the navy ship and was taken under the wing of old Mr Runciman who helped him to establish a business of his own. Many of his descendants lived in Cardiff Road. For 40 years the organist at the Methodist Church in Ocean View was Christine Johanna Kindo, born on 29 July 1921. She died on the 30 August 2012.
The Indian community in Dido Valley and the Moslem community living near the mosque in Simon’s Town were not evicted from the area as the government did not have a place for them to go.
Fishing communities that lived in Glencairn and Murdoch Valley tried to fight their evictions on the grounds of the community relying on the fishing fleet. Although the Kalk Bay fishing community were allowed to remain in their homes, the pleas of the former were disregarded. They were forced to move along with the others.
There was much resistance to the removals from the entire Simon’s Town and Glencairn communities. Two surveys were carried out by government officials and two hearings held, where all attending expressed their disagreement with the Group Areas Act and the forced removals, but to no avail. The apartheid government went ahead with its noxious policies, to the detriment of the people of Simon’s Town and the surrounding areas. The charming character of Simon’s Town changed forever.
Grateful thanks so Margaret Constant and Cathy Salter-Jansen of Simon’s Town Museum for all their input and for the historical photographs.
© Vivienne von der Heyden
Photographs copyright of Simon’s Town Museum.