One of the most humiliating experiences in the history of South Africa was the forced removals of people of colour from their communities of birth to spaces foreign to their identities. The history of forced removals in South Africa is primarily related to the group Areas Act, whereby various racial groups in South Africa were assigned to different residential townships and places in the Bantustans. The Apartheid regime used the notion of peace and prosperity as a mask for the policy of forced removals.
Sophiatown, District Six, as well as Die Vlakte were among some of the many vibrant multi-racial communities that were destroyed by the apartheid government. The impact that these forced removals have had on identity have been extremely profound and have manifested in a myriad of ways. On that note, the session on Forced Removals allowed us to reflect and unpack our own identities and how our identities are a manifestation of the communities we identify and grew up in. The depth, power, and relevance of our identity involves understanding it beyond its explicit manifestation. The activities we participated in during the session almost replicated much of these communities and allowed us to understand the scale of these communities as vibrant spaces, cultural hubs, and diverse areas with distinctive languages.
On a personal note, it has been extremely difficult to grapple with the idea that my people were forcefully removed from their homes, and their communities and forced to vacate to environments unfamiliar to them simply because they were undervalued as a result of the colour of their skin. These emotional thoughts have further forced me to question the poignant issues surrounding land redistribution and why it is so important that previously removed residents claim their land and their spaces back.
We need to understand why people want to claim their land, and we need to acknowledge the historical and generational trauma that is evident in many of these communities as a result of these forced removals that took place. These removals were more than one knock on the door. Residents who had identified with particular communities were removed from them, disposed of their patrimony, separated from their social networks, and forced to establish themselves into new spaces with strangers from other neighbourhoods. Our people had to reconstruct their sense of being because their previous networks and relationships were destroyed and torn apart.
I was born and spent many years of my life in a township called Motherwell in Port Elizabeth in the Eastern Cape, to a mother from a village called Ramotswa in Botswana. This session allowed me to reflect on the impact that these removals still have on the contemporary identity of my people. Although this session was relatively emotional, I thoroughly appreciated the manner in which it was presented and conducted as it challenged and encouraged me to further reflect on the history of my people, and gain introspection about myself.