Forced Removals

Artist: Winston van der Merwe

The Dutch Reformed Church donated unused and worthless land to the Village Management Board for the establishment of a new coloured settlement. The land was situated next to the new coloured primary school across the railway line nearly two kilometres from the town. In return, the church once again received ownership of the valuable property on which Oukloof was situated. They were able to partition off the land into smaller plots and sell this land to white buyers for a substantial profit.

The newly proposed land for the coloured settlement became a contentious issue between the Department of Coloured Affairs and the Village Management Board. According to an inspector for the department, the land was not suitable for housing as it resembled a swamp, it was located too far from the town and too close to the wine cellar and the wine waste sediment dam. The department proposed another area situated close to the white church and the white primary school but in the end the Group Areas Board sided with the white run Village Management Board and approved the land next to the coloured school for the new housing scheme.

There is very little archive documentation available depicting how and when the forced removals actually took place. It is through interviews with several Ouklowers that we were able to gather testimony of their experiences and piece together the events that lead to the forced removal.

A meeting was held in the Mission Church where the Village Management Board informed the coloured community of the move. Promises were made of better housing with electricity, flushing toilets and taps inside the houses. The proposed map also showed that a clinic, shops and a police station would be built in this new extension.

The new houses were built in three phases according to the size and in September 1965, the first families were forced to move. In the end 62 families were forcibly removed from Oukloof.

Although this was common practice under the Group Areas Act at the time, the forced removal of Oukloof seemed to be particularly traumatic due to the manner in which it was undertaken. Houses were demolished while many residents still occupied the area. Some residents who protested the removal, watched in shock as bulldozers flattened their houses with their belongings still inside.

Once people moved into their new homes, they soon discovered that there was still no electricity, no running water inside the houses and the toilets were once again situated outside in the form of a bucket removal system. They were also informed of a monthly rental that was payable for each house. Many residents who could not afford the monthly rental were faced with a second eviction. Their furniture placed on the pavement and the door locked until payment was received. Many of these residents were forced to find accommodation with family in the neighbouring towns likes Hermon and Riebeek West as they could not afford the new rent.

The new coloured township was named Esterhof, a dedication to Mr Johannes Esterhuysen, the chair of the Village Management Board and the principal of the white primary school. Esterhuysen spearheaded the removal of the coloured community into the new coloured settlement.

Once everybody had moved to Esterhof, the Mission church on the hill stood empty as Sunday church services were moved to the new coloured school. The Mission church was later demolished and the property together with the old location known as Die Rug was partitioned into smaller plots and sold off to white buyers.

Today there is no evidence that a church once stood in Kloof Street.