Meghan visibly moved by plight of former District Six residents
News / 24 September 2019, 11:05am / Rebecca English and James Wood
Cape Town – Meghan Markle was greeted by a very enthusiastic fan as she and Prince Harry arrived at the District Six museum in Cape Town – which honours thousands of families forcibly removed from the area during the apartheid era.
Harry and Meghan were hugged by 81-year-old Somaya Ebrahim, who was in the crowd when the Duke's grandmother the Queen first visited Cape Town with her parents and sister in 1947.
The former District Six resident, who was forcibly removed to a township with her family during the apartheid era, asked the couple: 'Where's Archie?' She was told he was sleeping.
Somaya, who was just nine when she waved her flag for King George VI and his family, was overwhelmed by Monday's meeting, saying afterwards: 'It was amazing, they were so lovely.'
During the visit the couple sat down to a snack consisting of Cape Malay koesisters, a local pastry similar to a doughnut, and samosas.
It comes after The Duchess of Sussex earlier told teenage girls in a township known as 'South Africa's murder capital' that she is visiting them as a 'woman of colour and their sister' in a rousing speech on the first day of her and her husband's latest royal tour.
Meghan and Harry visited Nyanga, where one in 206 people are killed each year, just outside of Cape Town, after touching down at the airport in the morning.
The couple's visit to the troubled township has been arranged amid a major security presence, with details kept secret until the last minute to prevent any unrest and four-month-old Archie left behind at their residence with his nanny.
The royal visit was also overwhelming for eight-year-old Mackenzie Collison, who began to cry after meeting the Duchess.
'She was beautiful, she just said hello and how are you,' said the little girl, who had been waiting for nearly three hours to see the couple.
Local artist Adrien Lee presented the Duke with an oil painting of him, which he declared to be 'amazing'.
'I painted it two years ago,' she said, 'but I was waiting for an opportunity to give it to him.
'Meghan saw it and said 'wow!' and that was wonderful, very special. I am so thrilled that they absolutely loved it.'
Harry and Meghan charmed the crowds as they walked two blocks from the District Six Museum, where they had learned how some 60 000 people were forcibly relocated from the inner city area when apartheid began in 1966.
Freed slaves, artisans, immigrants, merchants and the Cape Malay community had previously lived side by side there for over a century until 1966 when the government declared it a whites-only area.
More than 60 000 residents were forcibly relocated to the Cape Flats township during the apartheid era.
Inside the former church, they met ex-residents of District Six, who showed them the site of their original family homes on a huge interactive floor map.
Meghan was visibly moved as she listened to Joe Schaffers, 80, and Noor Ebrahim, 74, describe how they were given notice to leave, moved to townships in the Cape Flats and saw their old homes demolished.
They also admired a huge mural and listened to piano music played by another former resident as they heard about the neighbourhood's rich cultural heritage.
Later, residents forcibly removed from their homes during the apartheid era said the Duchess of Sussex understood their plight better because of her mixed race heritage.
Hours after declaring herself a 'woman of colour', the Duchess, accompanied by the Duke visited the District Six Homecoming Centre in the centre of Cape Town.
The centre, part of the District Six Museum, offers a meeting place for former residents who had to move out when the area was declared whites-only in 1966.
Fairuz Achmat-Basardian, 52, who was six years old when her family was forced out in 1971, said: 'It means a lot to us all that Meghan is mixed race. She understands better what has happened to us.'
Ms Achmat-Basardian and other former residents were introduced to the Duke and Duchess on the first day of their ten-day tour of southern Africa. At the Homecoming Centre, the couple, without baby Archie, tasted local specialties drawn from a cookbook produced by the community.
Patience Watlington, 77, who had made the couple a mutton and tomato stew, said the Duchess had sung the praises of slow cooking. 'She just said slow cooking is very nourishing,' said Ms Watlington.
The Duke declared the stew delicious. 'It is amazing food. If we had time I would eat all of it.'
The couple moved to another table and tasted a butter bean stew made by Asa Salie, 67, and Shahnaz Arnold, 57. Ms Salie said: 'The Duke asked me if we could ever forgive what the apartheid government did to us? And I said we can forgive but we can never forget.'
At the next table, the couple tucked into a dessert of potato pudding but passed on special doughnuts called Koeksister as too sweet.
At the table sat Harper Elizabeth Naidoo, who is two in December, who played peekaboo with the Duchess. 'She said: 'how cute'. She said she loves babies,' said the child's motherChanelle Naidoo, 30.
At the end of the day, the Duchess exchanged cookbooks with the women from the Homecoming Centre. She gave them a copy of Together, a cookery book she worked on with the Hubb Community Kitchen in the wake of the Grenfell fire. The women gave her a copy of District Six Huis Kombuis food and memory cookbook.
For their second engagement - a visit to the District Six Museum - Meghan switched into a blue Veronica Beard dress and wore her hair down.
She was first seen in the sky-blue Cary shirt dress during the couple's trip to Tonga last October.
Harry changed into a neutral suit, fresh white shirt and suede shoes.
Earlier in the day Meghan, 38, stood on a tree stump to address crowds of local women and girls supported by community charity Justice Desk.
She said: 'May I just say that while I am here with my husband as a member of the royal family, I want you to know that for me I am here with you as a mother, as a wife, as a woman, as a woman of colour and as your sister.'
Meghan and her husband, 35, were seen dancing and laughing with locals on the first stop of their 10-day tour of Africa.
She has written about her racial heritage before, but this is thought to be the first time she has spoken about it publicly since becoming a royal.
The Duchess wore a dress designed by the sustainable Malawi-based fashion brand Mayamiko and the couple sported matching 'Justice Desk' beaded bracelets as they shook hands with beaming locals.
Quoting poet and civil rights activist Maya Angelou, Meghan said in her speech: 'Each time a woman stands up for herself, without knowing it, possibly without claiming it, she stands up for all women.'
'Now I know it's not easy and I know it must feel insurmountable at times, but your commitment to what is right gives all of us hope, especially your brothers and sisters here in your community who need you to continue to shine your light brightly.
'Your commitment is inspiring, it is energising and it is extraordinary. You must keep going, you must know that what you're doing not only matters, it is vital because YOU are vital.'
She said she felt 'humbled' to be in the Nyanga community's presence, as they stood firm in their 'values of respect, dignity and equality'.
The Duchess continued: 'The work that's being done here is to keep women and children safer, which is needed now more than ever.
'This is an issue that's been at the forefront of people's minds here in South Africa, and of course across the globe, particularly over this past month.
'Please know that my husband and I have been closely following what you've been experiencing here – as best we can from afar.
'But now that we are with you, we are eager to learn and see first-hand the work that you're doing, the vital work that you're doing, and that everything that is being done on the ground is making the great change that you not only need but that you deserve.
'You have welcomed us into this community, have been open and honest with us, both about the dangers women and children face, and about how you are addressing them.
'The rights of women and girls is something that is very close to my heart, and the cause I have spent the majority of my life advocating for because I know that when women are empowered, the entire community flourishes.
'So to be able to meet all of you today who are standing up for what's right in the face of adversity, I applaud you.
'We are encouraged to hear your President take the next steps to work towards preventing gender-based violence through education and necessary changes to reinforce the values of modern South Africa.'