Oukloof Legacy had its roots in an increased sense of local activism following South Africa’s local elections of 2016. At the time, the national political atmosphere was dominated by infighting amongst prominent individuals, which did little to address the needs of local communities. The election campaigns of the major parties resulted in a disappointing voter turnout at the polls, and a sense of frustration with the political elite prevailed throughout South Africa.
In the Riebeek Valley it was no different. A number of residents started to get involved in reviving local structures like the ward committee and the Community Policing Forum (CPF). Attempts to address a multiple of community issues were launched, and communication and dialogue erupted on social media.
One of the few structures which was able to straddle the communication divide between Riebeek Kasteel and Esterhof – physically indicated by the railway line – was the ward committee. The ward committee’s main function is to act as an advisory body to the ward councillor, and communication conduit between the public and municipality. After the 2016 local elections, Councillor Desiree Bess, a resident of Esterhof, was elected to represent Ward 12. The highest voter turnout in living memory in a Swartland Municipal ward committee election resulted in the majority of the ward committee members having a firm mandate to speak on behalf of the public.
A host of issues were tackled from the start, with mixed results, and it soon became clear that there is a big trust deficit between the communities. Former Paralympian and committee member, Jan Nero, was the first to address the unacceptable name of Esterhof on 21 February 2017. Most ward committee members were however relatively new arrivals to the valley, and were unaware of the reasons why Esterhof existed as a separate entity. After repeated references in subsequent meetings to the name Esterhof with little time for background information, a resolution was passed on 25 April 2017 instructing committee members to research the town’s history before addressing the issue.
During and leading up to this period, research was conducted on the term “Oukloof” after hearing conflicting details about the former coloured township from various sources. Finding reliable information about Oukloof proved surprisingly difficult considering that it existed relatively recently in historical terms. The discovery of Anna Bohlin’s research however (see weblink), was an eye opener.
The Oukloof Interest Group was soon established, consisting of three former Oukloof residents to guide the process, a small number of concerned residents and a local historian. The services of a professional journalist and her team of researchers were employed after securing the generous funding from a local resident.
On the 14th of January 2018, the Oukloof Heritage Project was launched (Die Courant, 24 January 2018) during a meeting with some of the surviving Oukloof residents.
The Oukloof Heritage project has since been rebranded as Oukloof Legacy, to reflect a move away from a project, to a continuing process.