Now the couple, both aged 94, has a burning wish to return to the area.
Daughter Freda van der Merwe said: “Sometimes we take a drive up to District Six just to show them how the area now looks, and it’s so heartbreaking to see those empty houses just standing there and nothing going on.”
The couple live in Elsies River with Van Der Merwe. Catherine celebrated her birthday last Thursday. She has difficulty speaking and hearing.
She married Cyril, who was a young soldier from the Bo-Kaap, in 1944. The newly-weds moved into Catherine’s family home at 213 Hanover Street, an area known as the cultural heart of the now demolished neighbourhood.
The couple stayed there for 30 years, before pressure and evictions by the apartheid government led them to accept an offer to relocate to a home in Silvertown, Athlone.
“They feel very disheartened when they see how District Six looks at the moment because I can see they really want to be there more than anything in this world, they want to be there,” Van Der Merwe said.