The Black Roots of the Vine in Franschhoek and Environs:
An untold history of dispossession in the Drakenstein
The successful wine-farming district of Franschhoek emerged from an old elephant breeding ground first called Olifantshoek, through the combined efforts of French Hugenots, Free Black farmers, slaves, indigene Khoi labourers and later indentured labour from other African countries and amaXhosa labour.
The original name Franche Hoek applied to the broader farmlands of the area settled by French Huguenot refugees. When people first began to break the land, the concentration of dangerous wildlife at this spot saw the name changed from Olifantshoek to Banghoek because of the fearsome reputation of the area.
Franschhoek, the town, has a more recent history, only being proclaimed as such in 1881. At the time its inhabitants were 50% white and 50% coloured. Just how did Franschhoek the dorp become the white town of affluence and ersatz French-styled tourism offerings that it is today? How did the Huguenot contribution drown out all of the other contributors to farming success in the area?
The early peopling of Franschhoek
The San and Khoi moved freely in the area prior to the first VOC scouts entering this terrain. The territory was under the oversight of the Gorachouqua kraal at Klapmutsburg and the Gorachouqua and their territory fell under the direction of the Goringhaiqua who were answerable to the Chainoqua regional chieftainship. The Chainoqua governed the entire Cape territory of European settlement, on behalf of the Hamcumqua King who in turn respected the paramount status of the Chobona. The Chainouqua and Hamcumqua shared camps and practiced intermarriage with the amaXhosa and the Chobona were a mixed Khoi-Xhosa people and Xhosa polity.
While the new settlers were to see the Khoi first as troublesome pests and later as vital labourers whom they enserfed through a slave-type indentured labour system, the Khoi saw the settlers as their guests who ought to be showing them respect. Later the amaXhosa who were a mixed Nguni-Khoisan people, also expected the settler descendants to show respect to their traditional authority. The term Xhosa was a Khoisan name given to the original tiny Nguni southern clan into which many Khoi and San people had assimilated through royal marriages. Under King Tshawe and following his reign, the original small Nguni clan grew into a confederacy of different tribes and clans to become the modern amaXhosa national group. Over 500 years from 1500 this group developed from the initial coming together of Nguni, Khoi and San, to also incorporate Griquas, European and Asian Slaves marooned through shipwrecks, and droster slaves from the Cape Colony who sought refuge. During the latter years hundred years war amaXhosa would have first found their way into the Franschhoek district in significant numbers.
From their perspective the settlers and their descendants considered the land of the Drakenstein to be un-populated and free for the taking. They could not understand the indigene people whom they considered to be inferior. What existed was a very loose African confederal polity within a plural monarchy that was very different to what the Europeans had in Europe. It was also not protected by a mobile military force of any sort. The settlers just could not get their heads around these loose African systems. The conflicting perspectives of the indigenes and the European settlers and their descendants have continued without resolution for over 350 years.
Simon van der Stel the ‘Eurasian’ Governor who came from Mauritius
Simon van der Stel, arguably the first coloured (Eurasian) Governor of the Cape, was a farming development visionary who simply from a position of strength declared the territory he named as the Drakenstein, to be a VOC possession to be exploited for agricultural purposes. The VOC had largely broken Khoi resistance in the district while mobile armed commandos kept the “troublesome” San hunter groups in check. Van der Stel named the area Groot Drakenstein after visiting VOC Commissioner Hendrik van Rheede tot Drakenstein. The area between what became Franschhoek and Stellenbosch, acquired the name Jan de Jonkershoek, so named after combining the name and nickname of two pioneering farmers in the area. One was the Free Black farmer, Jan van Saloor, also known as Jan Lui (Lazy Jan) and the other farmer was Johan Andriesz nicknamed the bachelor (de Jonker).
Simon van der Stel
Van der Stel initially wanted to settle the Drakenstein with black farmers from Angola or Indians from Bengal as he had little faith in the local Burghers farming abilities in the Cape and had plenty of experience of successful plantations in Mauritius and Batavia. The VOC changed his mind when they sent him a different kind of skilled and hard-working settler in the form of the French Huguenots. The combination of Hugenots, assisted by slave labour, made it possible for Simon van der Stel to develop the Drakenstein. The slaves were brought in from Africa and Madagascar, India and the Indonesian Archipelago. Over time thousands of slaves were locally born to lead lives of slavery and servitude. While initially the VOC had trouble subjugating the Khoi and coercing them into the labour force, after the 1713 smallpox epidemic this change dramatically. From a highly independent Khoi population of up to 200 000 prior to the European colony, the Khoi numbers had been reduced to about 15 000. From the latter half of the second decade of the 1700s, Khoi indentured labour became a vital component of the farming economy.
History neither properly acknowledged nor rewarded the descendents of slaves and the Khoi for their contribution. By 1827 the Stellenbosch district, of which Franschhoek was a part, had a total population of 16 325 of which 8 445 were slaves. In 1692 there were seven slave owners in Franschhoek with 43 slaves between them. The back-breaking work that went into taming the land and creating the beautiful farms, vineyards and towns largely relied on slave labour, captured San and coerced Khoi serf labour.
Another pioneer component in the Drakenstein were the Free black farmers and artisans. In 1712 there were 17 Free Blacks in the Stellenbosch district of which Franschhoek was a part. Amongst these were artisan craftsmen such as Isaac van Terenate, Rangton of Bali, Anthonie van Saloor, Jafta van der Caab and Johannes Adriaanse. Free Black farmers included Jan van Saloor, Marquart van Saloor, Anthonie van Angola, Manuel van Angola and his wife Elizabeth van der Caab, and Louis van Bengalen. Other Free Black and mixed families settled along the Eerste River.
Amongst the Huguenot families there also were people of colour. The first owners of the farm Rust en Vrede were the French family Jacques and Marie-Madeleine De Savoyes. Their eldest daughter Margo married Christoffel Snyman the son of the Free Black burgers Anthonie from Bengal and Catharina of Palicatte. The Free Black farmer Christoffel Snyman and his French wife Margo, as Marie then called herself, became the second owners of the farm Zandvliet, today known as Solms-Delta. The first owner Silverbach had also been married to a Free Black woman.
The story does not end here. One of the sons of leading French Hugenots Francois and Cornelia Villion (Viljoen), Henning Viljoen, married Margo Snyman, after Christoffel Snyman the Free Black died. Christoffel and Margo had a “Coloured” daughter Catharina who in one of those twists of circumstances, married her step-father`s brother, Johannes Viljoen. Other Huguenot settlers like the Cordiers had two of their sons marry free slave sisters. The early days at the Cape did not have entrenched segregation. All of these people were amongst the founders of the Coloured and African communities of today. They are also the black ancestors of many white families.
Anna de Koningh a free slave who rose to ownership of Groot Constantia
Amongst the French Hugenots was also one, Jacob Etienne Gauch the son of French parents, but born in Switzerland in 1684 (Celigny). He came to the Cape in 1691 and settled in Franschhoek under the name Steven Gous. In 1718 he married a 13 year old freed slave girl, Catharina Bok. They had 7 children. When the widow Catharina died in 1767 she was able to bequeath her youngest son the farms “Berg en Dal” and “Klipheuwel”, plus 12,000 guilders in cash. In the traditional white narratives of Franschhoek the threads of black history is carefully removed from the complex tapestry that should reflect the diverse heritage of Franschhoek and one that should offer a pride of place to all regardless of colour.
Into the Drakenstein mix, came a number of highly educated religious-political prisoners who were exiled by the Dutch from India and Indonesia. They were neither slaves nor free-burghers and were settled in distinct locations with restrictions on their movements. The largest settlement of Sheigh Yusaf of Macassar and his Muslim followers numbered 48 and was established at the other Zandvliet on the coast. Other Muslims, distinguishable from slaves, who were also brought to the Cape from Indonesia, were convicts sentenced to forced labour for a period. The Muslim influence was later to make itself felt amongst some of the slaves in the Drakenstein, a small number of whom adopted the faith. Most of the eastern slaves particularly in the early years of slavery were not Muslim on arrival in the Cape, but were received into the faith. In Islam this is called “reversion” as Islamic theology proceeds from a position that all human beings are born to serve Allah as Muslim. A number of eastern royals were also settled in the town of Stellenbosch. However the vast majority of slaves in the Drakenstein area, over time, had stronger Madagascan and African roots from the 1750s onwards.
In the early 1700s under the leadership of the Dutch immigrant, Adam Tas, a clear fissure based on class and colour developed in the Drakenstein Valley and Groot Drakenstein including the area later to be known as Franschhoek. A petition was drafted by Tas and signed by 14 other white farmers (not all farmers were willing to sign) demanding codes that entrenched distinctions and privileges between white farmers and any person of colour; Free Black, slaves, indigene Khoi, and even people of colour who were intermarried with settlers. The petition by today`s standards, was a “hate-speech” diatribe of fear mixed with loathing of the Khoi, regarded to have murderous intent. Of likewise character, the petition identifies “slaves, caffers, mulattos, mestizos and all that black brood amongst us, and related to European and Christians by marriage”. This statement was particularly rooted in racist thinking. The document lashes out that these are allowed to advance in Cape society and warns that the blood of Ham is not to be trusted.
This document and sentiment among a significant sector of the settlers and their descendants would reappear time and again right up to the present day. It was not the sentiment of all however, and those who held this opinion had to struggle for ascendency. While these white farmers could not do without the labour of slaves, Khoi and Free Blacks, they could not see people of colour being full members of their community. The foundation of “othering” people of colour as an inferior people of ill-intent was first established at this time. This poisonous attitude existed alongside more liberal attitudes and the two streams coexisted but continued continued to do battle right through to the implementation of the Group Areas Act in 1965.
After the Second World War, this fissure amongst the white Drakenstein population could be well illustrated in one Drakenstein family the Malan`s. The Malan`s were one of the original French Huguenot families where at this time two men arose to fight out this political battle in public. Danie Malan was the first Apartheid National Party Prime Minister committed to changing the constitution to remove the Coloured vote. His opponent was Adolf “Sailor” Malan, decorated ace fighter pilot of battle of Britain Spitfire fame. Sailor Malan headed the anti-fascist ex-servicemen’s organisation, Torch Commando, representing 125,000 soldiers who opposed DF Malan`s move to rob the franchise from the Coloured electorate.
An uneasy history of black and white living together but with black people being made to know their place” unfolded over the century that followed the Adam Tas petition. During the 1700s the Franschhoek farmlands fell under the Stellenbosch district which had the highest proportion of slaves and Khoi labourers in the Cape. Human relationships were governed by master and slave dynamics which later transformed into master and servant dynamics.
After 1806 under British rule and most especially after the paradigm shift that occurred in 1834, with the emancipation of slaves, the tradition of white “baaskap” (overlordship) was threatened. All of the gremlins came tumbling out of the closet. White farmers established a Farmers Protection Association to agitate for legislative means to ensure that former slaves and serfs had to “know their place” as a lower class within Cape society through a curtailment of liberties. This protest movement became a political party with substantial seats in Parliament but nonetheless was unsuccessful. The stronghold and birthplace of the Afrikaner Bond and Farmers Protection Association as it later became known, was Paarl, Franschhoek and Stellenbosch. It was here that white Afrikaner Nationalism and Apartheid ideology was born.
The birth of the town of Franschhoek as a “kerksdorp” setting the scene for segregation
For the coloured people of Franschhoek the first battleground of this ideological thrust was in the realm of the affairs of the church. The town of Roubaix Dorp was in its infancy at this time of the ferment of militant white Afrikaner nationalist ideas.
Originally the name Fransche Hoek described the collection of nine Huguenot farms in the valley, which joined the first farm, sitting in the corner flanked by the mountain range. The first farm to be established in the area was not a Huguenot farm, but one started by a Swiss colonist from Basle in 1692. The farmer`s name was Heinrich Masller and the farm was named “Omkeer”. The nine Huguenot farms were granted by Simon van der Stel, arguably the first Coloured (Eurasian) Governor of the Cape in 1694. Later an eleventh farm was granted to a German, Hans Heinrich Hattingh. This farm was the second in the area to have the name La Motte. The original La Motte henceforth became known as “Bo La Motte”. After 1777 more farms were allocated in the area and in 1805 the broader Field Cornetsy was named Franschhoek.
Franschhoek, the town, first began to emerge as a little one-street dorp in the 1820s. It was simply the “dorp”, without any name tag. Only in 1881 when the area became a municipality did the village, then called Roubaix Dorp, change its name to Fransche Hoek and become a small town. Prior to this when referring to the broader area in conversation, some would refer to “le Quartier Francais” or “Le Coin Francais”. The village first took shape in 1832 with the establishment of a chapel. Notably one of the chief arguments for establishing the chapel and later a church which was the cornerstone of starting the “kerksdorp”, was that it was needed for the farm workers of colour who had no means to travel to church services in Paarl. This “kerksdorp” acquired the name Roubaix Dorp after a petition in 1859 by villagers led by FCM Voight, a government teacher, to name their town after the MP for Paarl, Mr de Roubaix. There was some division in the town over this move, but it would take 30 more years to change the name to Franschhoek.
The “kerksdorp” expanded in 1845 and then again with the completion of a church in 1860. In 1845 the first residential plots were laid out north-west of the church grounds. The first plots were part of La Cotte farm, then belonging to Gysbert Hugo. In 1860 parts of Cabriere farm was also sub-divided into erven.
In 1865 Roubaix Dorp was considered to be a full “kerksdorp” and the town is recorded to have had a mixed population of 400. One of the oldest records of the sale of an erf in the town to a Coloured owner is dated in 1852. The owner, Martinus Jacobus, sold this property in 1882 to another Coloured owner Isaac Esau Fortuin. The property was 45 Dirkie Uys Street.
In the 1850s debates began to rage in the Dutch Reform Church about segregating congregations, but in 1857 the anti-segregationist Rev GWA van der Lingen won the day and it was only in 1881 that a separate Dutch Reform Church was established as a mission to people who were not white and were no longer welcome in the “mother” church.
In 1881 the town of Franschhoek established in terms of Ordinance 9 of 1836, had a population of 320 whites and 327 people of colour. In 1904 the figure was 665 people of colour to 642 white. By 1984 the joint population of the now segregated Franschhoek and Groendal was 1750 coloured people to 850 whites.
The town of Roubaix Dorp was in its infancy at this time of the ferment of early Apartheid ideological ideas. The fortunes and history of Paarl, Stellenbosch and Franschhoek, and all of the settlements in-between were greatly entwined. Over time as the town grew, parts of Roubaix Dorp became relatively integrated, with Coloured descendents of former slaves, free Blacks and indigenes, as well as new indentured labourer immigrants from Congo, Botswana and Mozambique living side by side and worshipping with whites. Most coloured people in the town now worked as servants, handymen and craftsmen for the white townspeople while farm workers resided on the farms. This continued for most of the 19th century.
By the time that Roubaix Dorp became Franschhoek in 1881, free Coloured people had established their place in the town. But resentment was growing amongst the white population. Coloured people occupied a tenuous place in Franschhoek society as the struggle for segregation in the Dutch Reform Church, originally opposed by Reven van der Lingen, was won by the segregationists in that same year.
An old slave Aploon and family
Already in 1842 the scene had been set for the promotion of “coloured locations” when farmers expressed concern about wandering homeless and jobless former slaves in the area and the “spiritual welfare” of farm workers who were former slaves. A lack of social order and cohesion presented a threat to the farmers of the Groot Drakenstein area and from this a convergence occurred between the interest of a genuine philanthropic spirit amongst more liberal farmers and more conservative protectionists of white interests.
Slave Memorial in Pniel
Pieter de Villiers and Paul Retief of the farm de Goede Hoop charitably made part of their farm available for the establishment of the Pniel Mission Station consisting of a church and school. In 1843 the adjoining farm, Papier Molen was bought by the Pniel Mission and divided into smallholding erfs for coloured tenants. This later became freehold title and a Coloured “kerksdorp” was developed. Effectively these missions while offering philanthropic relief to the dispossessed, also inadvertently laid the basis of separate development, or segregated twin towns to every white town. The missing ingredient at this time was legislative coercion to force coloured and indigene African people out of the white towns. Thus social mobility was possible with migration from the mission town to the main town as fortunes improved. Thus a number of Coloured families set up home in the Franschhoek dorp. The Apartheid regime would provide the means to stop this after 1948.
By the turn of the 20th century with the population of Franschhoek ever increasing, a residential area, Le Roux Dorp, organically began to take shape about a kilometre outside of the municipal boundaries of Franschhoek. In 1900 parts of the farms La Provence and La Terre du Luc, owned by two Messieurs le Roux, were proclaimed a residential area acquiring the name Le Roux Dorp. The area became the home of a mixed Coloured and white working class population, but predominantly Coloured, while Franschhoek was mixed but predominantly white. Under the Apartheid Group Areas Act, Le Roux Dorp would later be turned into a coloured location and be renamed Groendorp and later Groendal.
The application of the Group Areas Act in Franschhoek
From the early years of representative government in 1854 and responsible government in 1872 a qualified franchised based on property ownership allowed all propertied men of colour to vote in elections. Effectively however, candidates of colour did not stand a chance of being elected, nor got elected. Most black votes went to liberal white candidates.
The Cape black vote played an important part in keeping right-wing race politics at bay. The voters roll also gave a good indication of black ownership of property in the Drakenstein. For most of these years Franschhoek fell under the Paarl constituency. In 1909 there were 579 black male voters of which 2 were indigene Africans, 2 Indians, 21 so-called Malays and 554 Coloured. The total voters roll was 2 393, making the propertied black vote a significant proportion of voters.
This is also an important factor, because when the Group Areas Act was implemented many coloured owners of property had the legitimacy of their property ownership challenged and were cheated. In 1948 there were 2 873 registered coloured voters out of the total of 11 094 voters in the Paarl/Franschhoek constituency. One of the first things that happened under Apartheid rule was to remove Coloured voters from the voters roll in 1956. This was vigorously opposed by Coloured people and also by many white ex-servicemen who had fought fascism in Europe. Amongst these was a local resident the famous fighter pilot Sailor Malan who headed the anti-fascist Torch Commando. Indigene Africans had already been removed from the common voters roll in the Cape in 1936 with devastating effects for the community.
As had happened in the case of indigene Africans before them, Coloured people were put on a separate voters roll and Franschhoek`s Coloured community thereafter had to vote in the segregated Pniel constituency first for white representatives in the House of Assembly and then later for Coloured representatives in the Coloured Representative Council. The nullifying of the Coloured vote was a freeway to full segregation and imposition of the Group Areas Act of 1951 in the Drakenstein. In a few short years the full weight of Apartheid came to bear on the Coloured community in Franschhoek. Disenfranchisement also led to the ethnic cleansing of Franschhoek and theft of Coloured owned properties through forced removals.
Seven years before the finalisation of the Group Areas Act, first proposed in Parliament 1951, the council record in November of that year, shows that 27 erfs owned by Coloured people were identified and listed for ownership to be removed. In one case, that of SC Balie, who was renting his property to a Mr Wiehahn, and wanted to re-occupy his property in April 1952, the council blocked him from occupying his own property. This was the first act of forced removal even before the Group Areas Act was perfected and finalised.
In the 1950s under apartheid, two Acts of Parliament were finally passed to enable ethnic clearing of mixed areas and social engineering of race-based Group Areas. The Group Areas Development Act 69 of 1955 and the Group Areas Act 75 of 1957 were created to engineer residential planning in accordance with new legislation entrenching race classification, prohibition on mixed marriages, separate amenities and a host of other Apartheid laws. The rigid and efficient implementation of these laws spread through the Drakenstein towns and was highly disruptive in the town of Franschhoek in particular.
The second incident of use of the Group Areas Act occurred in 1958 when one Coloured family was stopped from building on their property. Le Roux Dorp was formally designated a Coloured Group Area in 1958, and in 1964 Paarl Town Council appointed a Coloured Management Committee for the area while Franschhoek unsuccessfully attempted to pass responsibility to Paarl in an endeavour to be an absolutely white town. After it lost the dispute Le Roux Dorp became the designated Coloured location for Franschhoek municipality in 1971. It later was named Groendal and with the demise of Apartheid in the 1990s, Coloured and African people shared Groendal as a residential area. Indigene Africans were sent to Mbekweni location. The whites were moved out of Le Roux Dorp and were given attractive compensation packages by the state which bought up their properties.
The Coloured people in Franschhoek were a mixture of tenants and homeowners. Coloured homeowners in Franschhoek owned large properties, but were paid low token compensation for their land. The families that were evicted from Franschhoek had to rent houses when they were forced to move to Le Roux Dorp, and the little money received as compensation for the loss of their homes was soon depleted to pay for the rent.
Franschhoek finally became a whites-only town when the 60 coloured families were all removed from Franschhoek residential areas to Le Roux Dorp. Then Le Roux Dorp was brought into the Franschhoek municipality in 1971 after an initial wrangle about responsibility between Paarl and Franschhoek. A separate coloured municipality was created with a buffer zone of farms in between the “coloured group area” and the old residential areas of Franschhoek which then became a “whites-only group area”. Existing plots owned by coloured families in Le Roux Dorp were sub-divided to make way for those evicted from Franschhoek. Due to insufficient land in Le Roux Dorp several families decided to move away and settled in far away places such as Port Elizabeth, Kimberley, Worcester and Johannesburg.
The Franschhoek forced removals was the beginning of a wave of ethnic clearing exercises all across South Africa the two most well known “forced removals” being that of District Six in Cape Town and Sophiatown in Johannesburg, renamed in fascist fashion as Triompf (Triumph). The Coloured people of Franschhoek became the first victims of municipal roll out of the Group Areas act removals. Alongside them the indigene Africans, now called Bantu under Apartheid, who were working and residing in the town of Franschhoek were moved to the large dormitory location, Mbekweni. The coloured-white labour preference area legislation and hated “pass laws” resulted in Indigene Africans being completely endorsed out of Franschhoek.
Ghettoisation of Indigene Africans in the Drakenstein
Post-Apartheid historians and Xhosa oral-tradition have shown that the Xhosa and the Khoi people in the Drakenstein had age old links through the Gorachoqua kraal at Klapmats considered to be responsible to the Khoi-Xhosa paramount Kingdom of the Chobona. In the southern Xhosa districts most Xhosa were people of mixed Khoi-Nguni lineage. Xhosa people first directly came into the Drakenstein as a result of capture when incursions by Boer commandos struck Xhosa strongholds up the east coast. The first commando of 45 private mercenaries is recorded to have operated out of Stellenbosch in 1702 in defiance of the regulations of Simon van der Stel.
The Xhosa and Mfengu trickled in to Cape Town and its surrounds in significant numbers during the 100 years frontier wars, arriving as prisoners and labourers from the mid 1700s to mid 1800s. However not all of the people who were to be labelled as “natives” or “bantu” were Xhosa people. Simply having particular features and a very dark complexion resulted in many Khoi and Coloured people also being called Xhosa “natives” and “bantu”.
A number of the earliest slaves and Free Black burghers were from Angola and Guinea. Between 1750 to 1834 the large influx of Madagascan slaves, many Afro-Malagsy, and slaves called the Mozbiekers, from Mozambique, Malawi, Zambia, Zimbabwe, added a strong African presence in the Drakenstein. Added to this, from 1840 to 1880 many indentured labourers were brought in by farmers, from Congo, Botswana, Malawi and Mozambique. Added to this were the “Prize Negros” captured from slavers on the high seas who were brought to the area and sent to farms as indentured labourers. For indentured “Prize Negro” slaves. Slavery only ended in 1870. The last “Prize Negro” slaves landed at the Cape in 1856 and were indentured for 14 years.
Royal Navy ships capturing Slaver Ships and ‘liberating’ Prize Slaves who were brought to the Cape – this continued until 1856. West African Kroo men and East African Siddis made up the majority of Royal Navy personnel until around 1938. They too are ancestors of the people of the Cape
As a result of the Congo and Mozambique immigrant arrivals, the first indigene African school was established and remained as a private school until 1910 when taken over by the Bethel church. The African slaves, “Prize Negros”, Congolese and Mozambicans were to assimilate with both coloured and Xhosa families over time. By 1984, from those early education beginnings, 5 schools for African pupils existed across the Drakenstein catering for 2 286 pupils.
By 1928 so substantial were the numbers of indigene Africans, then called â€˜Natives` that there was a strong effort to create a segregated location for “Natives” in the Drakenstein. The move failed, as did a second attempt in the early1940s. Only in 1946 under a piece of legislation known as the Natives Consolidation Act of 1945 did the Paarl Town Council get it right to establish the location of Mbekweni at a midway point servicing Paarl, Wellington and Franschhoek. Under new legislation, in April 1973, Mbekweni was taken over from Paarl Municipality by the Bantu Administration Board. In 1977 this move was replaced by a Community Council in terms of the Community Councils act.
Indigene Africans were for many years labelled as “Natives”. This was then changed under the apartheid regime, first to “Bantu” and then later to “Blacks’. The usage of the term “Blacks” by the Apartheid regime, was a clever attempt to stop the Black Consciousness movement in its tracks. Black Consciousness activists had adopted the term “Black” as a means to undermine the Apartheid regime`s policy of “divide and rule” by whites emphasising differences between indigene African, coloured and Indian South Africans. The narrow use of the term “Black” by the Apartheid regime remains one of it`s most successful strategies as it was quickly adopted by all groups as standard reference for indigene Africans. It was quickly forgotten that Steve Biko and the Black Consciousness movement had introduced the word into political usage as a term of unity, uniting African indigenes, Coloured and Indian people. Today this term moulded by Apartheid to have an exclusive ethnic meaning is still widely used in the unintended narrow manner to identify indigene Africans rather than as a term of black unity.
The notion propagated in much of the glossy tourist literature that Africans only arrived from the eastern Cape in recent times is a gross distortion of the truth – even although freedom of movement brought about after the demise of Apartheid did allow indigene Africans to break out of the ghetto in areas such as Mbekweni and Zwelethemba. Breaking out of the ghetto has simply been replaced by finding habitat in informal shantytown settlements in the shadows of vulgar affluence dressed in the drag facade of kitschy “civilisation Francaise.
Post Apartheid and the hope of restitution
In the early 1990s as the apartheid era came to an end, a housing backlog grew in Groendal and Franschhoek experienced an influx of indigene Africans. This arose as a result of newly acquired freedom of movement, the availability of temporary job opportunities and the need to cut down on commuter travelling time and expenses. Seasonal non-residential farming labour and construction labour for new building developments in the area changed the employment character of Franschhoek dramatically, with little responsibility for the consequences being taken by the wealthy of the area. The tourist boom and soaring property prices led to the subdivision of farms as investors bought into the new Franschhoek lifestyle. As the initial development boom receded, much misery resulted for the dispossessed coloured community of Franchhoek and for the indigene African community who had joined them. Coloured and indigene African residential space, support service infrastructure and resourcing thereof was stretched to breaking point while elite white-Franschhoek was protected by lack of affordability for the mass of people.
Franschhoek`s appeal as an international tourist destination grew and many farmers evicted farm-labourers and converted their cottages into bed-and-breakfast and entertainment establishments. Those losses of permanent jobs resulted in a huge disruption to the local economy, as it shifted from its traditional base of labour-intensive farming to a tourism and service-based economy, from which coloured and indigene African people were largely excluded.
Community activists fought back. Families affected by Apartheid evictions in the mid-1950s lodged land claims under the post-Apartheid restitution programme. This process has had its own ups and downs. It is a story yet to be chronicled and is yet to come to a satisfactory conclusion. The story of District Six and Sophiatown has been well documented and told, but the human drama linked to this Franschhoek story of forced removals is yet to be documented and told. The story as detailed here, is a first attempt to bring a different historical perspective to a wider audience and to promote inquiry into the sad hidden history of this jewel in the crown of Cape tourism offerings.