Memories of a community broken by apartheid

The Newlands/Claremont Heritage, Environmental Justice and Restitution Society committee members at a heritage event held at Livingstone High School.

Memories of a community broken by apartheid were recalled at Livingstone High School on Monday.

More than 100 people were at the gathering, which was organised by the Newlands/Claremont Heritage, Environmental Justice and Restitution Society (NCHERS), an organisation helping to preserve the stories of those who were forcefully removed from Claremont and Newlands under apartheid.

The event was meant to be a “heritage walk”, like those previously held by the society in 2021 and 2022, but the stormy weather saw it held indoors instead.

The society’s chairman, Russell Dudley, said they wanted to build an awareness of the lost and unacknowledged history and heritage of Claremont and Newlands. “If we don’t write the history, nobody else will,” he said.

There was a display at the event featuring an old map of Claremont and Newlands as well as old pictures, documents and news clippings.

NCHERS secretary Jaamia Galant said her parents, Mymoena and Sedick Galant, had lived in Draper Street, Claremont, before ending up in Lansdowne after being forcefully removed from the area. Her mother collected pictures and news articles about the community in seven scrapbooks.

“My mother did not only cover the old Claremont and Harfield Village area but also the historical roots of Cape Town. She collected stories about how the dispossession happened and how the historical injustices impacted the people of colour for a long period of time.”

A key part of the old Claremont was the Young Guiding Stars Sacred String Band, which recently celebrated its 91st birthday.

The band’s president, Fred de Kock, 90, said residents of Claremont and Newlands had come together to form the band in 1932, and they had met at their clubhouse in Wesley Street, Harfield Village.

“We had over 80 members of the band, and during the forced removals, we lost many members that were scattered to different areas.”

But the band had played on, he said, entertaining at Christmas events, old-age homes and church bazaars.

Mr De Kock said his children now managed the band and had introduced it to a new generation. The band had performed as far afield as Atlantis and Mossel Bay, he said.

Paul Collop, 66, said he had lived in Matthew Road, Claremont, before the forced removals had seen his family scattered to Manenberg, Mitchell’s Plain and Wynberg. However, eight years ago, he had moved back to Matthews Road, and now lived three houses away from his childhood home.

“It was really sad moving out with my family, and we had difficulty adjusting to the areas because of the crime rate of those areas,” he said.

Mr Collop said he was happy to be back in Matthew Road, but it was sad that the old neighbours were no longer there.

Former Newlands and Claremont residents can visit nchers.org to learn more about the organisation.

Recently returned Claremont resident Paul Collop, 66, and former Harfield Village resident Rosemaree Motiki, 70, next to an old map of Claremont and Newlands.
NCHERS secretary Jaamia Galant shows historical scrapbooks to former Claremont resident, Jowa Abrahams, 80, who stays in Wetton now.
The younger generation of the Young Guiding Stars Sacred String Band performs a marching routine for the guests.