The forced removals of entire communities under apartheid was despicable and the District Six Museum helps to keep that dirty part of our history under the spotlight. Picture: Leon Lestrade/African News Agency (ANA) Archives.

Cape Town - The District Six Museum has started a campaign to officially change the name of Zonnebloem back to District Six. 

“This campaign started a few years ago. We first discussed the heritage of District Six and then there were other elements that we considered, and we decided to start the campaign again,” said Bonita Bennett, director of the museum.

She said there were many issues that had led to them launching the campaign.

“The residents said they had encountered some problems. For example, when they get their mail, they always have the area name listed as Woodstock, and in some way it made them feel like they didn’t matter at all.” 

In the apartheid era, District Six was named Zonnebloem when the area was declared whites-only and the previous residents were forcibly removed. It was a farming estate until the early 19th century, when it became a suburb of Cape Town as the population and city boundaries grew. 

Zonnebloem became a home to freed slaves, merchants, labourers and immigrants. The District Six area is made up of Walmer Estate, Zonnebloem and lower Vredehoek. 

Zainab Williams was born in Aspeling Street, District Six, before being removed by the apartheid government. Picture: Ayanda Ndamane/African News Agency

Some parts of Walmer Estate like Rochester Street were completely destroyed, while some parts like Cauvin Road were preserved, but the houses were demolished. In other parts of Walmer Estate, like Worcester Road and Chester Road, people were evicted, but only a few houses were destroyed. 

“Most of Zonnebloem was destroyed except for a few schools, churches and mosques. 

“A few houses on the old Constitution Street were left, but the homes were sold to white people. 

“This was the case with Bloemhof Flats (renamed Skyways). Most of Zonnebloem is owned by the Cape Peninsula University of Technology.

“I think for residents this will mean a lot because its a case of residents feeling that they don’t exist at all and it’s about their identity,” Bennett said.

Chairperson of the District Six Working Committee Shahied Ajam said: “It’s a fantastic initiative and it should have been done a long time ago. We fully support this. 

“The name Zonnebloem has the apartheid stigma still attached to it and when that area was used to house slaves and merchants, it showed the horror of the apartheid era.” 

Ajam also said that he hopes this will serve as a catalyst for all District Six role players to come together. 

Dr Anwar Nagiah chairperson of the District Six Beneficiary Trust said the name Zonnebloem was an insult to the residents of District Six.

“We want that area to be renamed. We want to keep the memory alive of the people. It’s very disappointing that the City has also dragged its feet in reclaiming this area back to District Six.”

The city’s mayoral committee member for Environment and Spatial Planning, Marian Nieuwoudt, said: “I remember suggestions like this were made when I attended a meeting with the District Six working committee. 

“The process will start with a letter written to the mayor then it will go through a public participation process and then it will be tabled at council. 

“They are more than welcome to write us a letter and we will guide them through the process.”

The forced removals of entire communities under apartheid was despicable and the District Six Museum helps to keep that dirty part of our history under the spotlight. Picture: Tracey Adams/ANA

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Cape Argus