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Allan Boesak tells Black and Coloured Capetonians they must ask whom it serves that they continue to be divided

Allan Boesak tells Black and Coloured Capetonians they must ask whom it serves that they continue to be divided
Jordan Pieters and Allan Boesak at the District Six Homecoming Centre, Cape Town, on Saturday, 29 July. (Photo: An Wentzel).

A rise in racially driven content posted by young people on social media led to an activist group holding a conversation about who owns Cape Town. Some of the opinions doing the rounds on life in Cape Town include ‘They [Black people] are taking our [Coloured] jobs’ and ‘Black people must go back to Transkei’.

About a hundred people braved stinging rain and a midday temperature of around 9°C on a wintry Saturday in Cape Town to meet at the District Six Homecoming Centre this weekend to talk about why they feel excluded and discuss the divide between “Black Africans” and “Coloured” people in Cape Town.

“Black people must go back to Transkei”, “Who is Black?”, “They are taking our jobs” were some of the opinions expressed (as either their own or as being overheard) by Coloured people at the gathering – along with the perception that they are being excluded from the job market, with jobs being handed out only to Black people, especially in Mitchells Plain.

The aim of the gathering, billed as “a response to the conversations happening among young people around conversations of race, belonging and identity in Cape Town”, was to facilitate conversation and to get people to see that at the grassroots level they all have the same problems and are one people.

jordan pieters

Jordan Pieters, a 25-year-old activist who conceptualised and organised the event – in partnership with the District Six Museum and the Cornerstone Project (Photo: An Wentzel).

Jordan Pieters, the 25-year-old activist who conceptualised and organised the event – in partnership with the District Six Museum and the Cornerstone Project – told Daily Maverick that Cape Town needs to have “a critical dialogue about the different fractures of identity”.

Opening the dialogue, Pieters reminded people that while Cape Town’s history of forced removals is widely known, most people are only aware of the forced removals of Coloured people – most famously from District Six to Mitchells Plain – when in fact Black people had been removed from Cape Town “first, under the 1913 Native Land Act”.

Pieters, despite her relative youth, has been an activist for more than a decade, and as a law student was part of the #Feesmustfall protests at UCT, which ultimately led to her abandoning her law degree.

“Partly due to financial exclusion but also due to my own experience … My academic interaction with the law also changed when I became more politically involved … the law is actually a mechanic of the system,” she said.

coloured capetonians

Attendees write their thoughts on the board, (Photo: An Wentzel).

district six homecoming centre

Comments and thoughts of attendees were pinned to a board. (Photo Credit: An Wentzel)

The atmosphere in the Homecoming Centre was gently buzzing, with attendees ranging in age from around 18 to 70 and showing a diverse racial mix including Coloured people, Black people and even a few Whites. Men and women were almost equally represented, though there did appear to be relatively fewer young women compared with young men in the 25 and under age group.

Before the conversation got under way, Pieters, as the mediator, asked people to anonymously write their experiences, thoughts or comments they had heard directed at them, on the boards provided. These comments were then used as focal points for the discussion.

One person spoke of the history of the emergence of “Coloured people” as an ethnic group – born out of a history of slavery and colonialist oppression – saying that even before apartheid was legislated in the 1940s, there were enslaved people living with their masters (Whites) separate from Blacks.

Another speaker said fear of the other was being used by politicians to stop Black and Coloured people from uniting, and to sway people for votes.

Also represented at the gathering was the Cape Coloured Congress (CCC) – founded in 2020, by Gatvol Capetonians leader Fadiel Adams, with the aim of pushing for the empowerment of Coloured people. The CCC was represented at the event on Saturday by Dawayne Jacobs, the party’s proportional representation councillor for subcouncil 12, which covers a large part of Mitchells Plain.

Jacobs said he was proudly Coloured: “Let me tell you why. My great-grandmother, her uncle was Cecil John Rhodes. My great-grandfather was a Black man. Now, I see myself as Coloured – perfect combination. Right?”

Jacobs said that while he was a business owner and employed a diverse staff: “You can go anywhere on the Cape Flats … you will find that there’s more Black people working than Coloured people.”

Mandy Sanger of the District Six Museum said: “This needs to be an inter-generational conversation because I hear people talking about ‘our people’, ‘Coloured people’, ‘Black people’ as if these are fixed and somehow we are born Coloured, [or] we are born Black – and that’s not entirely true … In my family, when I call myself Black, no one blinks.”

Sanger said people needed to understand that between generations there are different experiences and worlds that influence identity and what people call themselves. People need to understand that they do not all share the same experiences and lived experiences, she said.

The PAC’s Lindokuhle Patiwe had another view: “There was a time when I was strictly against the identity ‘Coloured’, as an identity because I do think that it’s quite historically dubious.”

He added that he reached the conclusion that as Black people were not homogenous, Coloured people were more an ethnic grouping, rather than a separate race group within the larger group of “Black people, the way, for example, Xhosa and Zulu people are”.

However, he added: “Where I have a problem is the equating of the Coloured identity in opposition to the so-called ‘Black’ identity.”

Patiwe said Black people in Cape Town also feel some jobs are reserved for Coloured people only – especially administrative posts. 

“If you go to UCT, go to UWC, go to most of the companies in Cape Town,” he offered as an example, which some of the attendees appeared to agree with.

The meeting was closed by Reverend Allan Boesak, who announced that he had to leave for a family engagement, which saw people clamouring for his input.

To which he responded:

“I did say to her [Jordan], I don’t really want to say anything today, I want to listen, I want to hear what people are saying – but the situation in our country is so dire, we are in such darkness…

“And the Coloured thing – please we have to remember historically, that’s an imposition by the colonialists … to keep us divided.

“So we have to ask – whose interest is this conversation serving? Who brought us to the point where issues that we had solved in the Black Consciousness Movement … that we are now having to spend a whole Saturday afternoon talking about those issues?”

Before leaving, he also criticised President Cyril Ramaphosa, “Who distracts us from the real problems of our country – who does it serve that Cyril Ramaphosa comes from Johannesburg to Cape Town to the 100th anniversary of the Afrikaner Broederbond, to say to those people they must not worry, they are all Africans? But he hasn’t ever said that to our people in Bonteheuwel.” DM


Comments - Please in order to comment.

  • William Dryden says:

    Why does everyone blame colonialism for their problems and as for Allan Boesak claiming that the coloured thing was an imposition by the colonialists to keep them divided, is racist and not befitting a so called reverend.

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