Cape Town - It was a somewhat bittersweet homecoming when Nomntu Mpofu moved back to District Six a decade ago. Her father Reuben had already died and it was her mother Susan’s land claim, but she was already in her late 80s and quite frail.
“My mother was happy here because it was quiet although it was nothing like she remembered. Sometimes she would look out the window and say ‘is this really District Six?’ because everything had changed.”
Her mother died three years after moving back to the house they were allocated in Roger Street. They were one of the last families to move into the first 24 homes that Nelson Mandela handed over on February 11, 2004 in Phase 1 of the redevelopment.
Her mother, who had been a domestic worker in Sea Point, and father, a watchman, had lived in Stuckeris Street in a rented house. They were evicted in 1960 and sent to Gugulethu.
“My mother always used to talk about life in District Six. They liked living in Cape Town. She’d tell me how they always had parties and knew everyone because they were in the same block.
“It was safe to walk around at night, not like when they moved to Gugulethu where everything was new and they didn’t know anyone.”
She said it had been a battle to get the documents needed for a land claim because so much had been destroyed in the move.
“I had to scratch around but fortunately I found my mother’s marriage certificate which had all the details written down on it.”
She said her mother’s memories had been of a community that shared everything.
“She’d cook African food and share it with her neighbours who would cook their traditional meals. They loved that.
“I don’t think it will ever go back to what it was.”
But Mpofu said the spirit among neighbours nowadays was still good although everyone did their own thing.
“We do have days when we come together and have braais.”
There had also been a few crime incidents like robberies and thefts but it was mostly a safe area to live, she said.
The majority of families who moved into the first phase of the development had to pay R60 000. Those in Phase 2 had paid R225 000 but last year were given a refund.
Mpofu said the District Six Working Committee was working towards getting their money back because the houses were supposed to be about restitution.
“But we are not sure what will happen.”
She said she was happy in her three bed-roomed double-storey house which she shares with her son Kwanele, 30, and daughter Nokhanyo, 22, although it leaked badly at the back.
There were complaints about shoddy building work at the time with cracks showing soon after people took occupation.