The Manuel Family

Plot 48

Charles Manuel - living - 84 (2018)
Wife: Sophia Manuel (nee Ceaser) - deceased
Had 4 children:*Petrus Manuel
Maria Lourens (nee Manuel)
Shirley Williams (nee Manuel)
Derrick Manuel
Sophia Manuel was the daughter of Piet Ceaser. When she married Charles Manuel, Oom Piet Ceaser bought them this plot of land to build a house.
Petrus Manuel is their oldest child.

Extract from Petrus Manuel interview:

“My father is also still alive and turning 84 this year. His health is okay but his age is catching up with him. He met my mother while living in Ceres. She used to work for the Malan family at Allesverloren and they always camped in Ceres during the holidays. When my father came to live in Oukloof he started helping Oupa Piet Ceaser with his wood contracts. Later he went to work at the Riebeek Cellars and then became what we called a ‘Koppie’, somebody who looked after the prisoners.

We stayed on the corner of Roos and Kloof Street. Today there is a doctor’s house across the road but back in the day there was just a field and a reservoir where we collected water. Jacob Junies lived next to us. Oupa Piet bought the house for my parents from Mr David Goedeman. We knew him as Goeiman. My father had a garden and farmed with pigs and a cow. We didn’t have a lot of money but our garden and animals provided for us in many ways. When we moved down here, all of that stopped.

I was five years old when I went to Meiring Primary School. In those days it was still Meiring NGK Primary. It was still a missionary school of the Dutch Reformed Church. I only went to standard five and then decided to go and work. My father only earned R40 a week. If we wanted to go to high school then we had to go to Malmesbury and we didn’t have money for lodging as well. My sister Maria was able to go to high school and then she went on to qualify as a teacher. I went to work to help bring income into the house. In the winter time my father hardly worked. The bakkie [lorry] didn’t come out to fetch the people.

Growing up in Oukloof was amazing times. We were close to the town. We could quickly go to the shop or the butcher. We used to call the money a tikkie, a sikspens, a daaler , a oulap and a kroon.

Sometimes we played around the dam at the top of Oukloof. I couldn’t swim but that didn’t stop me. There were always other boys that would hold me up.

It used to be a group of us boys that were always together and we would catch on the naughtiest things. It was the Junies boys and the Claasen boys who lived around us. We built go-carts from wood and scrap metal with wheels in the front and back and a box in the middle. Then we took it to the top of the hill by the church and rode the cart all the way down Kloof Street. By the time we got to the bottom we would be full of grazes. In those days Kloof Street was just a dust road and very steep, so it was very dangerous. When we got to the bottom we had to turn before we reached Hermon Road, which was tarred. Many of us tipped the cart and then it was just skin that came off.

We were brought up in a very strict and religious house. We belong to the Old Apostolic church. Later, my father became a pastor in the church. In our house God was very much present in our lives and our lives centred around the church as it still does today. In the old days the NG Kerk (Dutch Reformed Church] called the Old Apostolic church a sect. We couldn’t get grounds for a church here in Riebeek Kasteel so we had to go to Riebeek West. On Sundays, we walked in the morning and again in the evening. The Meiring NGK Primary School used to belong to the Mission Church so while when everybody paid R6,50 for their book parcels, the children who belonged to the Old Apostolic Church had to pay R12.

I was around eight years old when we were forced to move. I often went back to see how they demolished the houses. Most of the people had moved down by that time but Oom Lukas Lameyer and another family refused to move. On this one particular day we all went up and watched how the farmers came with two Caterpillar bulldozers that they used to build dams with. They stood on either side of the house with a thick cable connected on either side. Oom Lukas and his family were still living in the house when the bulldozers came. They drove on either side and pulled the house down with the cable. Oom Lukas them just stood there and watched as the house came down on their furniture.

The whole place looked like an earthquake had struck. All the houses were destroyed. Some walls were standing. For me as a child it was hard to accept and see how the people were forced from their homes. It was heartbreaking to watch.

Once the old people moved down here you could see how things started to change. The spontaneity they once had is gone.

I feel disappointed when I look back and think about what happened to us. As coloured people we have been put at a disadvantage because of it. What we had there, we didn’t get here. The animals and garden that gave us extra income, was not allowed here. The plots were also too small to grow anything. In those days we were paid very little in terms of a salary. We lived from hand to mouth.

Today when I drive down Hermon Road as I come into the town, then I look at the area where the vineyards are now and wonder how we could have lived if we had still been staying there. I have accepted what happened has happened but I can’t help but think how rich the farmers are from that land. They have the ground and here we sit. We have not progressed anywhere. I wouldn’t say my life was taken away from me but anything that I could have achieved from that area I wasn’t allowed to. I always told my wife, one day when we are retired then we should buy the doctor’s house that overlooks where we lived. We have already retired and would never be able to afford it.

I just want acknowledgement for what happened to us. In the museum there is nothing about our people. It’s only about white people. There is not even a mention about us. There is nothing that our children can go and look at and say our parents came from here. We were just wiped off the table, like bread crumbs.

My oupa always told me, my inheritance is sitting in Oukloof. The property he bought for my parents. And for that I feel heartbroken.

Sometimes I take my grandchildren up Kloof Street, then we stand there and look out. I show them where we played and where our house was. Those memories will never leave me.”