Cape Town - Khoisan activists evicted for occupying a block of flats illegally in District Six erected a “matjieshuis” in the area on Sunday as a tribute to their aboriginal ancestors.
Tania Kleinhans, co-founder of the Institute for the Restoration of the Aborigine of South Africa (Irasa), one of the occupiers who had to vacate the flats meant for District Six land claimants, said the matjieshuis paid homage to their aboriginal roots.
It is a traditional Khoi dwelling. The houses were made of reed mats laid over a dome-shaped frame.
Kleinhans said this was their third attempt to have a matjieshuis permanently placed in the District Six vicinity. The two other the group had built were allegedly torn down by the city council land invasion unit.
“We have a right to our customs and our rights to the District Six land are deep-rooted in our indigenous roots,” said Kleinhans.
“The matjieshuis is a symbolic gesture that links us to the land before the development took place. It’s a place where we can talk to our ancestors.
“Other people are allowed to honour their ancestors around the country, why can’t we be left in peace?”
The matjieshuis is built in a field along Keizersgracht, just before Zonnebloem Road, overlooking the new District Six flats.
“It’s a great location for it, our ancestors can look over us and their land,” said Kleinhans.
When the Cape Argus visited the site on Sunday, the group had finished building the matjieshuis, which has five white flags around it as “a sign of peace”.
The group of about seven were planning to hold an overnight vigil in the house before attending court this morning. They had camping chairs and blankets with them.
Rene Hussain, of Athlone, whose father-in-law is an original claimant, said: “We will be here tonight guarding the matjieshuis. If they destroy it, we will build it again.”
On Tuesday, the Western Cape High Court served a final eviction order to Kleinhans and about six other families who had illegally occupied the block of flats.
The exceptions were the Soffels family, with two children, who were given until Monday to find alternative accommodation after they refused an offer to go to Blikkiesdorp.