District 6





During Apartheid, there was a separate category for “Coloureds.”  These were non-white people (and white people who married them) who were not African, not tribal, not black.  They could be anything but white, so brown, asian, indigenous, mixed race, etc.  The administration used a highly scientific test to determine the classification – the “pencil test.”  If there was any doubt, a pencil would be put into the hair – if it stayed, you were “Black” – if it did not – “Coloured.”


Coloured people had slightly better lives than blacks because they were not immediately banished into shantytowns, were permitted to own property in Cape Town (in District 6), build homes and, as can be seen above, were granted some quality of life.  All the photos depict people in their homes, celebrating weddings, birthdays, or big nights out or comforting the sick, caring for parents.

That was all to change, and we visited the District 6 Museum in the centre of District 6 in downtown Cape Town.



In February 1966, P. W. Botha, then Minister of Community of Development, proclaimed District 6 a White Area and under the Group Areas Act of 1950, over 60,000 people living in the District were banished to a “new” Township called Cape Flats.  In reality, white developers wanted this downtown piece of land to build on, and Cape Flats was nothing but vacant land out near the airport.

The people above were evicted from their own homes and moved to a piece of dry land with no services at all – no electricity, no water, no building materials, absolutely nothing.  People were allowed to take 1 suitcase of personal items with them and were given little or no notice.  People scrounged for scrap metal they could carry to build a shanty.  Some Capetonians sympathized and would occasionally drop off food, but one can imagine how crushing it would be to go from the lives they had depicted above, to a life with nothing.

The land in District 6 was never developed and sat empty ever since.

In the 1994 elections, the residents were promised District 6 housing would be rebuilt and the 1,000 or so people left who wished to could move back, but construction has yet to be started. 1,449 other former residents or their families have accepted some financial compensation instead.  Last year a court ruled that the government has to come up with “a reasonable plan and program” for restitution.  So far, no plan or program has been introduced.

Some houses have been built in the Canal Flats to replace shanties, but there is no public housing outside these areas, keeping the poor contained in the Townships in the city’s outskirts. Services are provided now, and satellite dish companies have capitalised on a group of residents eager for an escape from their lives.


The only mode of public transport for the working poor is “taxi buses” (minivans).  We saw throngs of people waiting in huge queues for the long ride home from domestic and labour jobs.  There is only one main highway feeding into Cape Town so the rush hour traffic barely moves.

– The unemployment rate in South Africa is 29% but the youth rate is 55.2%.

+ We were told there is a desperate lack of skilled tradespeople and engineers in South Africa.

= There is still a sense of optimism here, so hopefully someone is doing the math.






2 thoughts on “District 6

  1. OMG. how depressing. I did not know it was still so bad. I remember boycotting SA products, but started to buy once appartide was ended.
    And those pictures you took of the plants and animals are fabulous!
    I love reading your blog

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