District Six, City Bowl

District Six lies on prime real estate, in the foothills of Table Mountain and Devil’s Peak, with wonderful views out over Table Bay, just outside the city centre.

But District Six is marred by a history not easily forgotten by locals, despite land restitution and an attempt to make up for the apartheid government’s misguided policy of segregation.

For forty years District 6 has remained a scar on the horizon - an empty segment of land, devoid of houses and buildings other than a church and a couple of mosques. Between 1966 and 1982, 60 000 people were forcibly removed from their homes here - their homes bulldozed to prevent their return.

District 6, in a similar fashion to Sophiatown, was declared a ‘white’ area by the National Party 36 years ago. Having such a large mixed population - 10% of the people living in the city of Cape Town lived in District 6 by 1901, made up of freed slaves, merchants, artisans, labourers and immigrants - so close to Cape Town went against the government’s policies. International and local pressure following the District 6 debacle meant that the land remained empty. However, plans by the apartheid government for the area were never realised - and they renamed it Zonnebloem in an attempt to forget it.

It took until 2004 before the first symbolic keys to the doors of new homes in District 6 were handed over and June 6 saw the first three families take up residence in Chapel Street. Other plans included a further 4000 homes, aimed at seeing the return of working class families from the Cape Flats to the area, and the commercial development and ‘reincarnation’ of Hanover Street with shops, banks, chemist and others - to recreate the character of the old District 6.

District 6 Museum, set in the heart of District 6, keeps alive the memories of the district and displaced people everywhere. It is well worth a visit.

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