The De Bruin Family

Plot 17

Grandmother:Susana de Bruin
Grandfather:Nicolaas de Bruin
Susana de Bruin was brought up on the Allesverloren farm before her family was forced to move from there. Nicolaas and Susana lived for many years in a house on the main road [Church Road] between Riebeek Kasteel and Riebeek West. The house was situated opposite the doctors’ practice. As more white people started settling in this area, the de Bruin’s were soon forced to move from their home and relocated to Oukloof. Today the house has been converted into a restaurant.

Interview extract from Kosie de Bruin: 

I was born in Oukloof and lived by my ouma and oupa. My mother’s parents. It was a whole bunch of us in the house.

My ouma worked for a few white people, cleaning and washing. In those days the people were paid with a Tikkie and a sikspens. If you had a better job then you got a kroon. That is what we called the money in the old days.

Where the municipality offices are today used to be a shop run by Piet Katosh. He had two entrances for his shop and above each door was written “nie blank” [non-white] and “blankes” [whites]. Most of his vegetables he bought from the Ouklowers because they had big yards that they used for farming. He had an agreement with them and in exchange they received flour, sugar and maybe coffee.

A white farmer, Japies Grobelaar built our house for us in Oukloof. My oupa worked for him and he told us that it was our house. It had a large front room, a big bedroom and a reasonable size kitchen. It was one of the only houses built from proper bricks. Oom Doon Lameyer also had a brick house because he was a bricklayer.

We had a big piece of land that ran from the one road to the canal. We had animals like geese, makoue [muscovy ducks] and chickens. We even had rabbits and they were buggers that would dig holes underneath the fence. Then we had to go and look for them. We also had two goats because as a child I was not allowed to drink cows milk. I nearly died when I was a child and apparently the old doctor Van Zyl, who we nicknamed Dr Poepoltjie, told my ouma to take me off the cows milk and rather give me goats milk. That is why till today I don’t drink cows milk. I drink black coffee.

We didn’t have electricity. Our people used oil lamps and candles. We didn’t have money for glass so our windows were covered with pieces of wood that we removed during the day. A wooden shed with a hole in the ground and a bucket was our toilet. We had to make our own. When the bucket was full, we buried the contents in the far corners of the yard.

We didn’t have water in our homes. We first collected water from the reservoir. Later on they installed taps and Oom David Goedeman, who worked at the dorpbestuur [Village Management Board], was responsible for opening and closing the taps in the morning and evening. We had to buy coupons by the office and if we didn’t have then we couldn’t get water.

Christmas was a joyous time. The adults walked around the town singing Christmas hymns to the white residents. Most of the white people loved listening to coloured people sing because the coloured women have beautiful voices. They continued from house to house singing hymns and afterwards they received cake and ginger beer from the white people. There were of course those white people that chased them away.

The adults drank on Fridays and Saturdays. Sundays there was no drinking. After lunch the adults joined in with the children’s games like, ablou, blikkie en spy and drie blikkie. We packed tins on each other and threw the tins over with a ball. You were only supposed to throw the top tin over and then run because somebody would try to catch you with the ball. The adult men joined in and those who weren’t playing sat on the side cheering us on.

Just on the side of the church going down the hill towards the town, stood the TB hut. It was just a wooden shed and coloured people who had Tuberculosis were kept there in isolation. Food was brought to them. They had to stay in there and if they died, then they died. I know of one woman who died in that shed. The place was cold. In those days there was no electricity so there was no way of heating the hut inside. Many people got TB in Oukloof but the old people also had their own remedies that they used.

There were old white people who had a heart. They helped us when we got sick or if somebody died. It was when the new white people started moving in that everything changed in the town.

It was just the rich white people that were on the Village Management Board. They ran the town. They made the decisions about what was going to happen to us. When the apartheid laws came in the white people of the town decided on their own that the land was going to be taken away from us. During a meeting they our parents that we had to move to another location. They said our houses were not safe. Oom Lukas Lameyer still told them “My house has stood for all these years. There is nothing wrong with it. I am moving nowhere!”.

A lot of our old people didn’t want to move but they were scared of standing up to the white man because in those days we weren’t really allowed to talk back to the white people otherwise they would have us locked up. The white people made so many promises to our people about the move. They said we would get bigger houses with a bathroom and toilet inside the house. We would all have taps inside the house. That was all the promises they made to our people. It never happened! They also said the houses were going to be our properties and that we wouldn’t have to pay for it. As soon as the people started moving in they were told about the monthly rental that they had to pay. In other words, the houses remained under the ownership of the white management of the town. We were just renting. For years we had to pay rent. Some people who couldn’t afford the rent were evicted from the houses. Their furniture was put on the pavement and the doors locked. Then the municipality said that we could get the title deeds after ten years. That also didn’t happen!

We were supposed to be part of the first phase of people to move down here but there was a problem with our floors so we waited till the end. While we stayed in Oukloof I used to walk through the area every morning and saw another house standing empty. Then this aunty was no longer there, then this one was gone and so it went on. It started looking like a ghost town. At night here and there you could see light in a house. At one stage there were just three houses left. Imagine living in your neighbourhood and all of a sudden people you know were no longer there. The houses around you were emptying out and everything around you was deserted. Then think about that first aunty who had to move down to Esterhof while everybody still lived in Oukloof. It must have been very dark in Esterhof at night because there was no electricity. She probably looked up to the valley and saw the lights of the town.

We watched how they demolished Oom Andries Koopman’s house and Oom Jappie’s house. They used tractors and some used bulldozers. They just put the arm of the bulldozer against the house and pushed it down. It was done without much effort. For a while Oukloof was just rubble and half built walls until they cleared everything and levelled the land.

Once everybody was moved out of Oukloof, we were no longer allowed to go to that church anymore. We held our Sunday services in the new coloured school.

For me when I think back to the Oukloof days, it really grabs at my heart to think where we were thrown. Even for me who was a child, I went through the same pain as my ouma, oupa and my mother during the removals.

Sometimes I get angry when I think about what I could have achieved had I been living up there. What I would have been able to give my children. There I could maybe had done some sort of farming. There is no land available here for us to farm on. The problem is there is nothing for our people here. Not one of our coloured people own land in this area for farming. Not one that comes out of the Oukloof. They have the knowledge because they have worked on farms their whole lives and they farmed in Oukloof.

It is only logical that I would get angry about this. Anybody else would. The hurt isn’t something that sits on your clothes that you can just wash off. It sits deep inside us. It is things that I, as a child, witnessed and went through with my parents. Today there is a vineyard on the land where we had a house. Maybe we would have built another house on our plot. But instead they took us away from there and threw us here where there is nothing!