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Ludmila Ommundsen Pessoa

Chapter 4

The Perfect Place: They Moved to Mitchell’s Plain and Lived Happily Ever After

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Mrs Rinehart, the Caring Mother: Rewriting Education

1Mrs Rinehart’s interview starts with the image of a pretty bungalow boasting a neat garden full of plants and ornaments (figure 4.1)—the allegory of abundance. Sitting in a comfortable armchair—almighty—she represents the perfect mother in the sense that she defines herself by her responsibility and concern for her children, putting their needs first. The future of her daughters is the main topic of her account:

“It was such a change for me coming from Bonteheuwel to Mitchell’s Plain, especially with my children, you know. They, Adelaide and Dominique, Penny did not want to go to school there, and I thought, ‘what is going to happen to these children one day?’ But here, Adelaide wants to become an air hostess, even Dominique. The facilities that they have here … Dominique is going to the Far East in a few months’ time, and Penelope would like to become a doctor. As far as the crime rate is concerned, there is nothing that we have to worry about. Mike is going out; he can come home any time. There is time that they forget my front door open, standing open, and nothing happens.’”

Fig. 4.1 Mrs Rinehart’s house and garden

Fig. 4.1 Mrs Rinehart’s house and garden

2The interview is carefully constructed to take Mrs Rinehart at her word. She is matronly framed from breasts to head (medium close-up) in a simple dress, and her face exhibits a lack of artifice (figure 4.2). There is a figurine of a wedding couple on the shelf just behind her. It dispels any doubt as to her morality (when she mentions “Mike”), thus preventing the shadow of a single mother (e.g. the Indian weaver by her shack). She is a married woman. Her experience is expressed in a frontal view to engage the audience straightforwardly. She is a typical mother who worries about her children. These are portrayed as good traditional adolescents (figures 4.3, 4.4 and 4.5). The older girls, Adelaide and Dominique, do not neglect the codes of femininity and fashion. They all indulge in stereotypically feminine activities: Adelaide listens to music, Dominique focuses on her crochet pattern, and Penelope hangs the washing. However, like many contemporary Western girls, they are also emancipated in that, contrary to their mother, a housewife, they aim to forge specific careers. Adelaide and Dominique want to be air hostesses, and Penelope ambitiously aspires to become a doctor. There is a touching naturalness in Mrs Rinehart’s conversation (e.g. “you know,” “and I thought,” “Penny” (Penelope), “Mike” (instead of my husband), “there is time […] my front door open—standing open”). As genuineness and spontaneity pervade the atmosphere, Mrs Rinehart’s words acquire moral power. One may even wonder if her surname with the suffix—hart, a homophone of ‘heart,’ is a sheer coincidence, besides echoing the location of Mitchell’s Plain “in the heartland of South Africa’s Coloured community.”

Fig. 4.2 Mrs Rinehart

Fig. 4.2 Mrs Rinehart

Fig. 4.3 Mrs Rinehart's daughters (1) - Adelaide

Fig. 4.3 Mrs Rinehart's daughters (1) - Adelaide

Fig. 4.4 Mrs Rinehart's daughters (2) - Dominique

Fig. 4.4 Mrs Rinehart's daughters (2) - Dominique

Fig. 4.5 Mrs Rinehart's daughters (3) - Penelope

Fig. 4.5 Mrs Rinehart's daughters (3) - Penelope
  • 132 Gasant, Maruwan, “They Said It Could Never Happen” (Cape Herald, 31 August 1976); quoted in its ent (...)
  • 133 Geduld (2004) reports on a recent ceremony honouring the memory of the young victim.

3Mrs Rinehart’s appreciation of Mitchell’s Plain is inversely proportional to her experience in Bonteheuwel, a township of matchbox houses situated 12 km East of Cape Town. Bonteheuwel was created in the 1960s for Coloured people who were forced to move out of Cape Town from then-declared White areas and squatter camps. In the 1970s, for many Capetonians, Bonteheuwel meant the Coloured townships in general. For many Whites and middle-class Coloureds, the portmanteau name epitomised “the perceived nature of the Cape Flats: violence, unknown and to be avoided’ although it was ‘not the least pleasurable of the townships to inhabit” (Western 1981, 25, 325). In 1976, Bonteheuwel became a landmark in the history of the liberation struggle in the Cape region. It was the first Coloured township to rebel in the wake of the Soweto uprising. The involvement of the Coloured community was unexpected. The Cape Herald titled its report “They Said it Could Never Happen,” adding “Bonteheuwel, Wednesday, August 25, 1976—a day to remember. A day people said would never happen. Soweto, yes, Guguletu, Langa, Nyanga, yes. But never a Coloured township. But then it happened.”132 13-year-old and 15-year-old schoolboys Zolile Hector Pieterson and Hastings Ndlovu were the first casualties in Soweto on 16 June 1976. The first Coloured youth, 15-year-old Christopher Truter was shot during the riots in Bonteheuwel in September 1976 and died in hospital of his wounds.133 After the founding of the Congress of South African Students (COSAS) and the Azanian Students’ Organization (AZASO) in 1979, school protests became more organizationally directed with incidents allegedly involving gangs:

“Across the country, up to 100,000 children in coloured and African schools and university students on five black campuses boycotted classes between April 1980 and January 1981. The boycott originated in Cape Town, where it was fuelled by deteriorating conditions in the schools and the mushrooming of local organizations. The greatest impact was felt in the coloured townships of Cape Town and in Kimberley. Mr Bernard Fortuin (15) and Mr William Lubbe (19) were shot dead from an unmarked police vehicle in Elsies River in an apparent ambush on 28 May 1980. These killings resulted in a total stay away. Violence peaked on 17–18 June 1980 in the coloured townships of Elsies River, Lavender Hill and Bishop Lavis when a two-day stay away was held to commemorate the uprising of 1976. Coloured leaders had been detained in advance and meetings and gatherings banned during this time. A fare increase had also precipitated a bus boycott. There were incidents of arson, looting, and street protests, with some speculation about the involvement of gang elements.” (TRC 1998, vol. 3, chapter 5, sub-section 15, 416 [§ 92–4] [my emphasis])

  • 134 “In 1984, the Bonteheuwel Inter-Schools Congress (BISCO) was formed to co-ordinate the activities o (...)
  • 135 Archives of the National Library of Cape Town, South Africa, ref. AP1982-632.

4At the time of the documentary, Bonteheuwel was becoming a site of student political activism and very high crime rates.134 On 29 May 1980, the principal of Bonteheuwel Senior Secondary school sent a letter to the parents requesting them to attend a crucial meeting. He referred to a “critical position which has developed” and stated that “only pupils who come for lessons will be allowed to attend the school. Pupils who do not attend lessons but gather in groups on the premises will be regarded as a gathering of boycotters.”135 It is indicative of the strained state of social and political affairs.

5Of the three people interviewed in the documentary, only Mrs Rinehart says where her family used to live. Mr Arendse and Mr Claasens do not seem to have any past before their lives in Mitchell’s Plain—as if they were re-born in the new housing development. Mrs Rinehart’s account typically reflects the usual concerns voiced by her contemporaries. Western reckons that “the most common quality informants ascribed to Cape Flats life was the lack of physical security” and quotes a Bonteheuwel resident, who says, “the nearest police station’s Bishop Lavis, a half-hour’s walk. There’s no telephone in any emergency, the public phones are vandalized. The people opposite have a phone, but you can’t knock [wake] them up in the middle of the night” (Western 1981, 236). Fearing gangs of ruffians, people felt like prisoners in their own houses. In comparison with the classic experiences of Western’s informants, the move to and life in Mitchell’s Plain, defined by Mrs Rinehart as “a change coming from Bonteheuwel,” sets the relocation as a promotion and brands Mitchell’s Plain as the antithesis of vulnerability. Mrs Rinehart is representative of many of Western’s informants who belonged to the more privileged group of Coloured homeowners. These intensively disliked townships like Bonheheuwel, specifically for their public rental areas and the fear of violence from their residents, thus making “enormous and eventually successful efforts to get out into ‘more respectable,’ ‘safer’ home-ownership surroundings” (ibid., 263–4). Like those informants, Mrs Rinehart also expresses relief at escaping the ill-reputed place. This escape could also be relative:

“When coloured people did manage […] to build or buy houses in pleasant upper-economic suburbs, the government refused to acknowledge their rights to a better life. It became common practice to ‘Coloured’ slums next to middle and upper-class ‘Coloured’ suburbs. Alternatively, land for middle and upper-class suburbs was only available next door to these ‘ghettos.’ Often the only access to these upper-class suburbs was only through the ‘slums.’ Thus even when ‘Coloureds’ managed to escape from cesspools created by the government by non-whites, the government would not allow them to totally escape their roots.” (Du Pré 1994, 89)

6“It was such a change for me coming from Bonteheuwel to Mitchell’s Plain, especially with my children, you know,” says Mrs Rinehart. Similarly, a Mowbray resident under a Group Areas injunction tells Western about political or/and gender-based violence in Bonteheuwel: “I was scared of that place, especially for my daughters, who I’d brought up nice and who were then teenagers” (Western 1981, 216). Mrs Rinehart’s recollection of Bonteheuwel conveys the same concern over problematic school attendance, which can only find its meaning in the then context of protests. Her daughters’ education experience in Bonteheuwel remains unclear, the linguistic blur being all the more conspicuous and subsequently suggestive: “They, Adelaide and Dominique, Penny did not want to go to school there,” she claims. Did they refuse to go to school, or did they stay away from school? Did they stay at home, or were they involved in other activities? Why did the three girls make the same decision? What motivated their behaviour? The audience is not specified anything—i.e. the situation was known to or could easily be deduced by everyone, given the international reverberations of the Soweto student uprising. Mrs Rinehart’s words are shaped by the traditional atmosphere of her house; the composed attitudes of the girls do not fail to give rise to assumptions about the disposition of their school fellows and the ambience of their former school. The shadow of chaos looms when Mrs Rinehart shares her past anxiety, “I thought what is going to happen to these children one day?”—violence and life-threatening concerns crop up. The nature of the events taking place in this Bonteheuwel school seems to apply to contemporaneous school unrest in South Africa (i.e. the semantic relevance of “these children” as opposed to, yet including, “my children”). Mitchell’s Plain offers a counter-reflection; the interview sequence winds up with pictures of ant-like lines of smiling children orderly streaming out of a peaceful school and crossing a big empty avenue on the zebra crossing (figures 4.6 to 4.9). The new housing development exhibits peace, order, and progress in education. At the same time, the off-screen voice claims, “by the time the houses are completed, modern schools are ready to fulfil their important educational task. On completion, Mitchell’s Plain will be served by 66 primary and 22 secondary schools.”

Fig. 4.6 Pupils streaming out of school and crossing an avenue (1)

Fig. 4.6 Pupils streaming out of school and crossing an avenue (1)

Fig. 4.7 Pupils streaming out of a school and crossing an avenue (2)

Fig. 4.7 Pupils streaming out of a school and crossing an avenue (2)

Fig. 4.8 Pupils streaming out of a school and crossing an avenue (3)

Fig. 4.8 Pupils streaming out of a school and crossing an avenue (3)

Fig. 4.9 Pupils streaming out of a school and crossing an avenue (4)

Fig. 4.9 Pupils streaming out of a school and crossing an avenue (4)

7The three Rinehart girls are said to thrive in Mitchell’s Plain: Adelaide and Dominique want to be air hostesses, and Penelope wishes to become a doctor. Off-screen comments complete beautiful views of high school buildings: “technical training as well as higher education” are contemplated. There is a perceptible attempt at concealing South Africa’s racist education system, which featured a differential pattern of educational development for the different race groups. Unlike Blacks (i.e. Africans, Coloureds and Indians), Whites were receiving a very high level of education which was comparable with the best in the industrialised world:

“The underdevelopment of Black education is clearly reflected in the school enrolment patterns, especially at the secondary level, in inadequate per capita state expenditure on Black education, in the lack of qualified teachers, and the relatively small number of Black matriculants and university graduates. In addition, there is, in absolute terms, an increasing number of Black adult illiterates and Black adults with post-matric qualifications comprise only a small percentage of the total adult ‘population. Furthermore, the Black education system has failed to train sufficient Black people with skills. As a result there is a growing shortage of skilled and professional manpower. The system of Black education thus has deeply entrenched and chronic problems which can only be alleviated by radical qualitative and quantitative restructuring.” (Pillay 1984, 30–1)

8So, unsurprisingly, Whites held an overwhelmingly dominant position in specific key categories of educated or high-quality human resources. Why does the documentary refer to the medical profession? Because among the higher level occupations, doctors had the highest proportion of Blacks (Coloureds included)—although, observably enough, the percentage was still low:

Occupation Whites Blacks
Engineers 98,6 1,4
Architects 99,1 0,9
Doctors 89,7 10,3
Dentists 96,4 3,6
Chemists (Industrial) 93,0 7,0
Pharmacists 97,1 2,9
Accountants 98,2 1,8
Draughtsmen 94,0 6,0
Quantity Surveyors 97,5 2,5

Excludes Transkei, Bophuthatswana and Venda. Blacks include Africans, Indians and Coloureds.

Source: South African Department of Labour, Central Statistical Service (CSS), “Manpower Survey no 14” (1981), in “Manpower Survey 1965–1994” (https://www.datafirst.uct.ac.za/​dataportal/​index.php/​catalog/​315/​related-materials [archive]); quoted in Pillay (1984, 30).

  • 136 An overview is given by Kruger and van den Heever (2018), Communications and marketing office of UW (...)

9In 1972, the first report on the development of Mitchell’s Plain suggested making provision for “an extension of the University of Cape Town or possibly allowing for a second university for the Coloured Group” (Morris 1972, 11). In the film, the off-screen commentator mentions “an extramural division of the University of the Western Cape” under consideration. In the end, Mitchell’s Plain hosted the Dental Faculty of the University of the Western Cape (UWC). The dental school opened in 1974. It was housed at Tygerberg Hospital—where Stellenbosch University’s School of Dentistry was accommodated on another floor for discriminatory reasons—before its relocation to Mitchell’s Plain in the early 1990s.136

10The 1979 government brochure Mitchells Plain, an Investment in People claimed that “the department’s regional representative, Mr Jan Walters, point[ed] out that Mitchell’s Plain was entirely unaffected by the 1976 urban riots” (Information Service 1979, 12). However, youth unrest and boycott plans were prepared in Mitchell’s Plain during the documentary’s filming and at the time of its release. Strikingly enough, especially set against Mrs Rinehart’s interview, some activists in Mitchell’s Plain had grown up on the streets of Bonteheuwel, where they had been made aware of politics for the first time. Chief Director of Corporate Communication at Statistics South Africa, Trevor Oosterwyk, was one of them. When the Soweto riots erupted in June 1976, he attended Modderdam Senior Secondary School in Bonteheuwel: “We were oblivious to the implications of 1976. We knew about it but certainly did not understand because we were not politically conscious. I’d never heard of the ANC or Nelson Mandela. We’d never owned a television set”—as he explains his world consisted of Bonteheuwel “I could see Langa from where we stayed, but had not been there. It was amazing how separate we were. The physical distance was negligible, but the personal distance in between was wide” (Ommundsen Pessoa and Le Roux 2012, 37). In August 1976, a boycott started in his school in solidarity with the students of Soweto. When he moved to Portlands in Mitchell’s Plain in 1979, he started the Mitchell’s Plain Youth Movement with other political activists, then established branches in every Coloured township in the area (ibid.). The boiling point was reached in the early 1980s. Flyers were dropped from a plane in the Mitchell’s Plain area with a message signed by the “Concerned Citizens of Cape Town”:

  • 137 Archives of the National Library of Cape Town, South Africa, ref. AP1982-632.

“Dear concerned parents, according to reports in the daily press there are many of you who are indeed anxious about the education of our children. This is a significant step in the right direction. Will these instigators and organizers of the school boycotts are able to furnish our children with matric certificates at the end of the year to enable them to apply for meaningful jobs or to further their careers? Those who suffer from these distorted ideas are reminded ‘not to put their trust in princes nor the sons of man in whom there is no help.’”137

11Other flyers, written by the United Parents and Students Front in both English and Afrikaans, called for a sudden U-turn:

“STOP!! Because of traitors amongst us the racist police got hold of our boycott plans and therefore all our plans have been cancelled till later. Take note and pass on. STOP!! Omdat Vervloekte verraaiers ons planne aan die rassistiese polisie verkoop het daarom word all boikot planne gekanselleer tot later. Lees en stuur aan. STOP!!” (Ibid.)

12Detention and banishment soon followed,

“In November [1980], Mr Jamoloudien Hamdulay, Mr John Issel, chairman of the Rocklands Ratepayers’ Association in Mitchells Plain in Cape Town, and Mr John Ferrus, regional chairman of the Labour party, were banned. All had been involved in the school boycotts and, with others, had been detained under the Internal Security Act.” (Gordon et al. 1981, 259)

13Although images of restless youth and noisy mass gatherings follow Mrs Rinehart’s interview, these do not relate to politics. “The facilities for the town’s young people do not stop at formal education. There is plenty of space for them to exercise their enthusiasm for sports,” says an excited off-screen voice while commenting on pictures of a rugby game (figure 4.10), a happy crowd (figure 4.11) and animated teams (figure 4.12) cheering runners in a stadium (figure 4.13).

Fig. 4.10 Sports facilities (1) - Rugby game

Fig. 4.10 Sports facilities (1) - Rugby game

Fig. 4.11 Sports facilities (2) - Happy crowd

Fig. 4.11 Sports facilities (2) - Happy crowd

Fig. 4.12 Sports facilities (3) - Cheering teams

Fig. 4.12 Sports facilities (3) - Cheering teams

Fig. 4.13 Sports facilities (4) - Runners in a stadium

Fig. 4.13 Sports facilities (4) - Runners in a stadium

14In the wake of the Sharpeville massacre, South Africa was excluded from several international sports competitions, starting with the country’s suspension of the 1964 and 1968 Olympics and expulsion from the premier international athletic competition in 1970. By the 1980s, enforced as these exclusions were with the anti-apartheid movement’s large demonstrations in many countries, “apartheid sport was becoming as sealed off as a faulty nuclear reactor encased in a concrete sarcophagus” (Nixon 1992, 79). The sports boycott lasted until 1992. It had a most significant impact since “there are few national societies in which the cultural significance, indeed centrality, of sport has been more apparent than South Africa” (Black and Nauright 1998, 1). A 1977 survey indicated that the lack of international sport was one of the three most damaging consequences of apartheid for White South Africans (cited in Nixon 1992, 75–6). Therefore, expectantly enough, sports—rugby, hurdling and baseball—are present in the film. Rugby was (and still is) a major sport in South Africa. During apartheid, it had a solid cultural and symbolic significance for Afrikaners. There was a high level of interpenetration between the rugby leadership, the Broederbond and the National Party, thus becoming the cultural battleground of the anti-apartheid movement and the South African government.

  • 138 Black and Nauright (1998) devote an entire chapter to analysing Black rugby and sports.
  • 139 To Kidd (1988, 643–64), the campaign to isolate South African sport was enjoying widespread popular (...)

15Rugby was immensely popular in many areas of the Western and Eastern Cape and significant in the Coloured community of Cape Town.138 The documentary shows a rugby match and a hurdling competition. The scenes could counter criticism of gross inequalities in White and non-White sporting opportunities.139 In the opinion of Secretary for Community Development Fouché, the 1976 riots served as “a reminder of the dangers in poor housing conditions which serve as a breeding ground for communism” (quoted in Younge 1982, 25). Along the same line, the film presents sports facilities as solutions provided to students’ protests. By juxtaposing Mrs Rinehart’s comments on her daughters’ schooling and the sports scenes, it brands Mitchell’s Plain as a place of intellectual and physical competition—not political confrontation.

Mr Claasens, the Self-Made Man: Rewriting Economy and Freedom

16Mr Claasens’s interview follows the image of the setting sun—which allegorically anticipates and inscribes the completion of his journey under the ancient alchemical symbol of gold:

“After a hard day’s work, a businessman can relax in the comfort of his own home and plan for the future. Someone like Mr Claasens: ‘Two years ago, I opened a bookshop in Mitchell’s Plain. The name of the shop is Westridge Booksellers and Stationers, and I must say that the business came very well. So much so I have decided to open one in the town centre. The town centre is a R20 million project, and there I can’t let out. There, I intend to expand my business into another bookshop because there will be big business houses.’ A peaceful supper at home made with a woman’s love and a glass of good Cape wine. What more can a man ask?”

17Mr Claasens’s “plan for the future” is less family-oriented than based on a personal desire for business growth. His individualism is emphasised in many ways (figures 4.14 and 4.15). He is sitting alone on a large sofa in a full shot from head to toe (physical distance), reading a paper (mental distance); he stands slightly sideways when exposing his plans (depth of character). His discourse is self-centred (e.g. “I opened,” “I must say,” “I have decided,” “I can’t let out,” “I intend”), evincing strong initiative. His status as a homeowner—indulging in the “comfort of his own home”- is consequently meant to be viewed as acquired through personal effort, ability and achievement. After two years, his first bookshop is already so successful that he envisages a second one as a profitable investment in the town centre, which he “can’t let out,” thus demonstrating that Mitchell’s Plain is a land of opportunity for those who are ambitious and entrepreneurial. Mr Claasens couches his accomplishment and project in a language that manifests a sense of power and confidence. The documentary cleverly exploits the myth of the self-made man in an egalitarian society:

“The myth of the self-made man refers, first of all, to expressive individualism and individual success […] Second, based on the assumption of competitive equality, the self-made man has often been connected to utopian visions of a classless society, or at least to a society that allows considerable social mobility […] Thirdly, the culturally specific figure and formula of the self-made man thrives according to all empirical evidence on the illusion that the exception is the rule.” (Heike 2014, 368)

Fig. 4.14 Mr Claasens (1)

Fig. 4.14 Mr Claasens (1)

Fig. 4.15 Mr Claasens (2)

Fig. 4.15 Mr Claasens (2)
  • 140 Robin Cohen argues that the state’s role defines how relations of production are reproduced. These (...)

18This myth is particularly relevant to labour migration.140 Mr Claasens’ discourse constructs his move to and residency in Mitchell’s Plain as primarily resulting from and fuelled by a rational and opportunistic choice, therefore precluding coercion (i.e. the Group Areas Act). Yet, apartheid South Africa was no utopia. The country’s discriminatory policies imposed a robust racial dimension to occupational classes, which impacted social and organizational mobility and, thus, affluence. In the late 1970s, the racial division of labour saw some changes. According to Simkins and Hindson’s investigation, based on five manpower surveys from 1969 to 1977, there was evidence of “substantial and increasing penetration” (1979, 34) by Coloureds, Asians and Africans into petty bourgeois activities, (mainly clerical, white-collar and non-manual work) in the private sector of manufacturing, construction and commerce. Nevertheless, the outstanding feature remained “the predominance of Whites in both bourgeois and petty bourgeois occupations” (ibid., 44). They establish the following tables:

Table XIA. Allocation of Whites to each occupational class (%)
1969 1971 1973 1975 1977
I 8,22 9,45 10,34 10,67 11,28
II.a 10,11 10,79 10,64 11,17 11,52
II.b 42,74 43,77 43,10 43,37 43,29
II.c 4,71 4,66 4,70 5,24 5,24
II 57,56 59,22 58,44 59,78 60,05
IIIa 22,98 22,57 22,92 22,25 22,72
IIIb 8,68 6,80 6,66 5,89 4,91
IIIc 2,56 1,95 1,65 1,41 1,06
III 34,22 31,32 31,23 29,55 28,69
Table XIB. Allocation of Coloureds to each occupational class (%)
1969 1971 1973 1975 1977
I 0,45 0,53 0,57 0,59 0,63
II.a 4,47 4,22 4,75 4,76 5,49
II.b 11,12 11,79 13,51 15,16 17,16
II.c 1,21 1,35 1,55 1,70 2,13
II 16,80 17,36 19,81 21,62 24,78
III.a 9,75 10,73 11,71 12,29 12,60
III.b 36,28 36,75 36,08 33,82 29,14
III.c 36,72 34,64 31,83 31,69 32,84
III 82,75 82,12 79,62 77,80 74,58

I. The Bourgeoisie;
II. The Petty Bourgeoisie: (a) Professional and Semi-professional; (b) Clerical, White-collar Technical and other non-manual workers; (c) Supervisors;
III. The Working Class: (a) Skilled; (b) Semi-skilled; (c) Unskilled.

19As a bookshop owner, Mr Claasens’s case was representative of the penetration that took place then.

Table XB – % Coloureds by sector by occupation 1977
Sector
Occupational category 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 Total
01 - -* -* -* -* -* -* -* 1,7 1,7
02 -* -* 0,7 -* 0,7 0,7 0,4* 0,5* 0,9 0,7
03 -* 1,5 0,9 -* 0,7* 2,0 -* -* 0,9 0,9
04 -* -* 0,7* -* -* 0,8 1,1 1,8 0,5* 0,8
05 - 1,4* 2,7* 1,1* 18,2* 4,3* 0,2* 2,1* 13,7 12,5
06A -* -* 0,5* -* -* 2,7 0,1* 0,8* 2,3* 2,5
06B -* 0,9* 3,7 -* 3,4 3,6 0,5* 1,2* 1,2* 1,9
07 19,6 0,7* 8,0 0,3* 14,1 8,7 2,0* 6,7 4,7* 6,4
08A 40,0 0,6* 4,1* -* 1,0* 2,7* 3,0* 0,2* 10,1 7,7
08B 65,0 0,2* 14,3 3,9* 5,1* 6,6* 7,2* 9,6 3,3* 8,8
09 21,9 2,3* 11,6* 4,6* 32,3 10,9 2,1* 43,2 8,8* 13,1
10 50,5 5,2* 13,4 5,9* 13,2* 14,4 6,6* 6,2* 5,7* 10,9
11 75,7 7,2* 21,0 10,9* 7,3* 16,1* 11,7* 26,7 11,5* 17,8
12 45,7 0,9* 10,1 9,5 7,5* 12,1 13,5 17,5 12,1 8,4

Sectors: 1. Fishing ; 2. Mining ; 3. Manufacturing ; 4. Electricity, Gas and Water ; 5 Construction ; 6. Commerce ; 7. Transport, Storage and Communication; 8. Finance; 9. Government, Personal and Community Services
Occupations: 01. Independent and high professional; 02. Executive and high administration in large organizations; 03. Professional and salaried professional; 04. Lower executives and similar administration in large firms, civil service and executives in medium firms; 05. Semi-professional and creative; 06A. Owners and executives in small private firms; 06B. Senior clerical and white collar technical; 07. Clerical/sales/representatives; 08A. Blue collar technical; 08B. Supervisory and inspectional; 09. Skilled manual; 10. Routine non-manual, ranks in services, street and market traders; 11. Semi-skilled; 12. Unskilled.
Note: Asterisks are placed next to entries where the proportion in the relevant sector is less than that for the relevant race group in the relevant occupation.

  • 141 The first construction phase of Mitchell’s Plain started in 1975; the second phase was in 1981.
  • 142 “Prior to 1974, the policy of the Cape Town City Council had been one of building houses and flats (...)
  • 143 “Although this cost structure has restricted the sale of houses to existing Council tenants to thos (...)

20Some nuance is required. The first stage of development 141 in Mitchell’s Plain was not intended for the poorer Coloured families,142 even though plans changed in 1975 following a decision to provide for home ownership on a larger scale and encourage the formation of a stable community with a financial stake in its environment. Assistant City Engineer Mabin (1977, 16) reports that “the first suburb of Mitchells Plain [Westridge] would be for home ownership with a certain prestige attached, it was planned almost exclusively for the upper echelon of householders, with income from about R300 to R400 per month.”143 As portrayed by the interview, Mr Claasens’s earnings most probably fall into the higher range of income. His case was exceptional in apartheid South Africa since the occupational categories of independent (01) or owners (06A) among the Coloured workers were in “substantial under-representation” during the decade under examination by Simkins and Hindson:

Table IXB. Percentage Coloureds
Occupational category 1969 1971 1973 1975 1977
(?) 01 2,13-- 3,81-- 3,68-- 0,94-- 1,68--
02 0,30-- 0,54-- 0,53-- (?) 0,31-- 0,69--
03 0,50-- 0,52-- 0,80-- 0,78-- 0,90--
04 0,33-- 0,43-- 0,86-- 0,93-- 0,77--
05 12,91* 11,03* 11,97* 11,53* 12,55*
06A 2,53-- 2,26-- 2,53-- 2,67-- 2,51--
06B 1,56-- 1,64-- (?) 4,04-- 1,98-- 1,92--
07 3,51-- 3,53-- 5,35- 5,31- 6,42-
08A 6,58- 6,19- 7,14- 7,27- 7,65-
08B 6,49- 7,00- 8,13- 7,67- 8,78-
09 11,05* 11,20* 12,72* 13,58* 13,12*
10 8,42- 8,15- 8,57- 10,68* 10,85*
11 21,66** 21,77** 22,06** 21,20** 17,76*
12 8,33- 8,13- 7,82- 8 ,45- 8,41-
Total 10,14 9,93 10,26 10,59 10,09

Occupations: 01. Independent and high professional; 02. Executive and high administration in large organizations; 03. Professional and salaried professional; 04. Lower executives and similar administration in large firms, civil service and executives in medium firms; 05. Semi-professional and creative; 06A. Owners and executives in small private firms; 06B. Senior clerical and white collar technical; 07. Clerical/sales/representatives; 08A. Blue collar technical; 08B. Supervisory and inspectional; 09. Skilled manual; 10. Routine non-manual, ranks in services, street and market traders; 11. Semi-skilled; 12. Unskilled.
Notes:
(1) An asterisk denotes that the racial group is over-proportionally represented in the relevant occupational category. A double asterisk denotes heavy over-representation (twice or more the proportion of the racial group in total employment). A minus denotes under-representation and a double minus substantial under-representation (half or less the proportion of the racial group in total employment)
(2) Unfortunately, there are some fluctuations for which there is no apparent explanation other than unreliability of estimates. These are denoted by the entry (?) before the figures.

Source: Ibid. (31).

21Once Mr Claasens finishes exposing his success and ambitions, his wife makes her appearance. She is not named. The audience can only guess that she is his wife by the couple’s rings, perceptible when they share their evening meal (figure 4.16). She is defined through the stereotypically feminine in “the peaceful supper at home made with a woman’s love.” The phrase implies that a woman’s love for her husband does not produce a tasty meal but a “peaceful” meal, namely a dinner in peace when they are together, thus adding the finishing touch to the myth of the self-made man:

“The myth of the self-made man appeals to the need for defining the masculine against the feminine by presenting two negative arguments. The most specific negative appeal in a myth concerned with origins alludes to escape from the mother. A second, more subtle appeal encourages departure from the realm of the feminine, with its daily interpersonal concerns, and a subsequent movement into the mythical realm of individual and corporate battle. […] Develop[ing] ‘to its very limits the image of the man without roots, the motherless man, the womanless man.’” (Catano 1990, 426)

Fig. 4.16 Mr and Mrs Claasens (Film still used by permission of GCIS)

Fig. 4.16 Mr and Mrs Claasens (Film still used by permission of GCIS)

22The “peaceful supper” comes as the symbol of a soothing reward after Mr Claasens’s business speech distilling the rhetoric of aggressive masculinity, which fits the concept of the self-made man. Interestingly, the peaceful quality of this supper is conveyed in that Mrs Claasens speaks but is not heard. All the while, the off-screen (male) voice relates “a woman’s love” to “a glass of good Cape wine” (e.g. “a peaceful supper at home made with a woman’s love and a glass of good Cape wine. What more can a man ask?”). The scene mainly exhibits Mr Claasens’s material success (there is plenty of food on the table, and there is a bottle of “good Cape wine”) and its related emotional success (e.g. ‘a woman’s love’). His empowerment is proportional to the extent of the conquered territory (financial security and peace of mind). The perspective reflects the discriminatory position of married women under South African law at the time:

  • 144 “Not all marriages were given equal recognition as they had to be solemnized in accordance with the (...)

“Prior to November 1, 1984, married women, with the exception of African women, were automatically married in ‘community of property’ and were subject to the ‘marital power’ of their husbands (unless they had an ‘ante-nuptial contract’ that specified otherwise): that is the property of the man and woman were merged into one, and the husband was the sole administrator of the joint estate. A woman in such a marriage was treated as a minor, unable to enter into contracts that bound the joint household without her husband’s consent while her husband, on the other hand, could enter into contracts, including contracts alienating the marital home or other property, without her consent.”144 (Nowrojee 1995, 27–8)

23The dishes are not specified or qualified (apart from the metaphorical ingredient “love”). In contrast, the wine is “good” and made in the Cape region. By drinking local wine—as opposed to foreign wine (e.g. French wine as a sign of wealth, taste and refinement)—Mr Claasens is promoting the South African wine industry, an essential contributor to the economy. The industry is overwhelmingly based in the Western Cape region owing to its Mediterranean climate (i.e. the region where Mitchell’s Plain is located) and traditionally reliant on predominantly Coloured labour (i.e. the racial community to whom Mr Claasens belongs).

  • 145 Ewert and Du Toit (2005) see a kind of “neo-paternalism,” a combination of “modern” and “paternalis (...)
  • 146 “[W]idespread alcoholism on Western Cape farms is a contributing factor as to why workers struggle (...)
  • 147 “At the centre of leisure control were the liquor restrictions. The attempt to control black drinki (...)

24The Dutch settlers planted the first vineyards in 1655. From the end of slavery in the 1830s to the 1980s, labour arrangements on wine farms were described as “authentic, undiluted paternalism” (Ewert and Hamman 1999, 208).145 Under apartheid, the industry was exclusively White-owned. Workers endured the “worst working conditions experienced in South Africa”: they received “social dividends” (housing, electricity, water) in exchange for meagre wages and were punished for efforts to unionise or engage in collective bargaining (McEwan and Bek 2006). Although efforts were made in the 1980s to improve social conditions on farms, the legacy of apartheid-era working practices still affects labour within the wine industry (White 2010).146 The infamous aspect of on-farm labour relations was the “dop” system, whereby workers were given low-grade wine as part of their wage package. The practice resulted in serious social problems in worker communities, including alcoholism, domestic violence and foetal alcohol syndrome (Brown, Du Toit and Jacobs 2004). Fuelled by this degrading system, drunkenness was a fundamental characteristic attributed to the Coloureds by the Whites. Many Coloureds internalised the stereotype. Western (1981, 18) cites the result of Dickie Clark’s study of the 1960s, which showed that drinking too much was the most common negative trait that Coloureds felt themselves to have. He subsequently reveals that, in the 130-plus questions of his questionnaire, he received the lowest number of responses and the most evasive answers to “Where did/do you go for a drink?” In Mr Claansens’s house, the “good Cape wine” symbolises success and peace. It is indirectly opposed to bad cheap wine, with its correlated drunkenness and violence. The scene suggests Black drinking147—and thus Black unrest—under control. It mirrors the comments of the 1979 brochure Mitchells Plain, an Investment in People: “Mitchells Plain was entirely unaffected by the 1976 urban riots. The active ratepayers’ association is even said to have voted against establishing a liquor store in the new city” (Information Service 1979, 12).

25When the documentary was made and released, South African products, including alcoholic beverages, were affected by anti-apartheid sanctions. These hit exports hard and prevented the exchange of vinicultural and winemaking expertise with other wine countries: “Exports, mainly of fortified wines and brandies, were reduced by informal actions from 1963 and formal sanctions from 1985, and by the entry of Britain in the European Community in 1973. Declared exports fell by about two-thirds between 1964 and 1989” (Vink, Williams and Kirsten 2004, 236). In the absence of an international market, the small local market developed and became more demanding, leading to the publication and success of Platter’s guide to South African wine in 1980 (James 2013, 46). When Mr Claasens and his wife casually sip their glasses of Cape wine, South African wine is advertised as social power, targeting and branding the Coloured middle class. It also ridicules the international boycott, which looks unfounded—if not preposterous—as the drink is purchased and enjoyed by Coloureds residing in a Group Areas housing development.

26The business-minded Mr Claasens is interviewed against a visible hi-fi system and a turn table (figure 4.15). In the wake of the self-made man sequence, musicians and dancers come along (figures 4.17 and 4.18). Freedom of movement follows freedom of enterprise:

“What more can a man ask? Of course, one would also want to go out sometimes. To a dance, for instance, in the fine Westridge Community Hall, the centre of many of Mitchell’s Plain’s social activities. Clever design makes this hall a multipurpose venue equally suited to a boxing tournament with 12,000 spectators or the small intimate meetings of a social club. The community hall received the Institute of Civil Engineers’ Award for the project of the year.”

Fig. 4.17 Westridge Hall (1) - Dancers

Fig. 4.17 Westridge Hall (1) - Dancers

Fig. 4.18 Westridge Hall (2) - Musicians

Fig. 4.18 Westridge Hall (2) - Musicians
  • 148 The Institute of South African Architects, established in 1927, was renamed the South African Insti (...)

27The Westridge Hall was designed by Graham Parker and won an Institute of South African Architect Award of Merit (Stoffberg 2015, 90).148 It was completed in 1979. When Cee Jay Williams moved to Mitchell’s Plain back in 1976, social life was non-existent, hence compromising its social fabric:

“I got a few guys together and we started the Westridge Darts Club. We needed something to involve the women too so we formed the Ballroom Club from my house. As the local population increased, more and more groups were formed and we amalgamated them into one big organisation called the Mitchell’s Plain Social Club. It just stood to reason that we needed to put pressure on the relevant authorities to provide sport and recreational facilities, and we organised ourselves into the Westridge Ratepayers’ Association.” (Ommundsen Pessoa and Le Roux 2012, 34)

  • 149 Toyi-toyi is “a quasi-military dance-step characterized by high-stepping movements, performed eithe (...)

28Stoffberg specifies that Westridge Hall was an example of the transitional structure from civic to community centre, with the gathering space at the heart of the design. Initially built to provide space for municipal services, it paradoxically offered little administrative office space, therefore functioning as a community centre rather than a civic centre. Accordingly, the off-screen commentator insists on its wide range of leisure activities—from dancing to boxing—adapted to different needs—from the “small intimate meeting” to the “busy tournament.” Notably, the documentary shows images of music and dancing only. Fighting would have been antithetical to Mr Claasens’s peaceful supper “made with a woman’s love” and a possible reminder of the growing anti-apartheid militancy in the aftermath of the 1976 uprising. It is worth noting that the musical image was stereotypically assigned to the Coloureds, a feature Western found significantly resented by politically aware Coloureds in his 1975 study (1981, 19). The dance scenes could provide a counter-challenge to toyi-toyi,149 the militant dancing and singing, which was becoming an eye-catching feature of mass street protests in South Africa. Gilbert (2007, 429) argues that “in the mid-1970s, culture was not yet on the ANC’s mainstream agenda. As the decade progressed, however, culture gained an increasing presence in the movement’s formal discourse” within the country and abroad.

29The freedom of movement that these happy gatherings at Westridge Hall seemingly celebrate in the documentary film positively denies the reality of the damaging effects of constant subjection to institutionalised racism on the mental, physical and social health of residents, especially those involved in political activism. United Democratic Front founding member Veronica Simmers and her husband Willie, a founding member of the Rocklands Ratepayers Association and the Cape Areas Housing Action Committee (CAHAC) in Mitchell’s Plain, were both in and out of detention. “But our kids turned out well. They are educated. They are graduates. Some people’s kids are badly affected,” they reckon (Ommundsen Pessoa and Le Roux 2012, 73). In contrast, apartheid left an indelible mark in the family history of former Cape Town Mayor Theresa Solomon and her husband, Marcus Solomon. When they moved to Mitchell’s Plain with the first families, Marcus had just been released from Robben Island after ten years as a political prisoner:

“Living with someone who was banned and placed under house arrest presented many challenges. We couldn’t go out as a family. Sometimes we were detained at the same time. The effect on our daughter was devastating. We made sure that she understood that we were fighting a system and not people. It was important that we did not radicalise instances and incidents for her. It was a huge contradiction for a child to understand. My first detention was difficult. I told my daughter not to cry. I now see the effects on her and I have a lot of guilt as a parent. I became an emotionless person. There was no trauma counselling. Activists didn’t need that […] or so we thought.” (Ibid., 57–8)

30The documentary purposefully focuses on these festive scenes distilling the lightness of bodies and minds and incarnating the spirit of wellness. A rising wave of anxiety and insecurity was then sweeping over Mitchell’s Plain as a result of the degrading economic conditions felt by many—the antithesis of Mr Claasens’s reality:

“In the Plain the smiles, enthusiasm and pride of many new home owners conceal rising anxiety, and even anguish, caused by financial stress. Even before the February 1979 petrol price hike many families were spending R 40-60 per month on petrol, mainly to get to and from work. These costs have virtually doubled in the six months since then. Where is the extra money to come from when, alas, so much is also committed to hire purchase instalments on the motor car, furniture and furnishings, electrical appliances and television set? After a brief holiday the old enemy, social stress, has reappeared—in subtler guise but no less destructive.” (Nash 1979, 7)

31Ironically, as Mitchell’s Plain’s conditions worsened and added to many other structural problems plaguing the Cape Flats, the Westridge community hall was used as the scene of protests organised by the Cape Areas Housing Action Committee (CAHAC):

“We can stand together. We showed this in grand style on Sunday January 10 [1982], when 3,000 [people] packed the Westridge Civic Centre to show the anger at high rent increases ... From as far places like Worcester, Atlantis, Ocean View and many other areas they came in a show of unity never seen before in our civic history here. This was possible because our people are joining their organizations and Cahac has united these organizations to speak as one voice.” (Cahac Speaks, January 1982; quoted in Maseko 1997, 361)

The Arendses: Home Sweet Home in a Civilised Group Areas Development

32The 1979 Information Service of South Africa advertised Mitchell’s Plain as “an investment in people,” an investment defined in terms of civilising mission through social mobility by the regional representative of the Department of Community Development: “If you live in Mitchells Plain you are acknowledged to have arrived socially,” says Mr Jan Walters, “You have arrived socially. Mitchells Plain is civilisation” (Information Service 1979, 31). Mr Arendse, his wife, and his children represent this professed investment, namely the civilised family, the Coloured family eventually accessing civilisation—i.e. being converted to homeownership—through what Mr Arendse sees as a “fortunate” opportunity bestowed upon him:

“But the modern, well-designed houses remain the cornerstone on which Mitchell’s Plain’s happy community is being built. Family homes, in contrast with high-density housing, which is hardly found here. This Mitchell’s Plain businessman, Mr Arendse, is proud to be able to raise his children in a home like this: ‘Now I was fortunate to get a job for the Mitchell’s Plain Housing Sales as you can see I bought a little place, a choice I’m just so proud of because I now have a room for each of my children. And I have got onto it very easily by paying a R100 deposit and only R92 a month.’ Most of the houses in Mitchell’s Plain have three bedrooms, modern kitchens and bathrooms.”

33Mrs Rinehart, the perfect mother, is introduced after a glimpse of the orderly nature of her abundant garden. Mr Claasens, the rising star, makes his appearance at sunset. Now, the viewer meets the Arendse family in the wake of a series of images of houses boasting different designs (figures 4.19 to 4.22). The Arendses play the role of the typical—father-centred—family residing in the area (figures 4.23 and 4.24). The audience goes through their house (figures 4.25 to 4.27). As Mr Arendse works for Mitchell’s Plain Housing Sales, he is the best placed to mention the terms and conditions of ownership. In contrast with the family scene in the overcrowding older housing scheme, where the lounge and bedroom were overflowing with people, the Arendses’s new surroundings and residence can only illustrate the upward economic development of the Coloureds.

Fig. 4.19 Mitchell's Plain houses boasting different designs (1)

Fig. 4.19 Mitchell's Plain houses boasting different designs (1)

Fig. 4.20 Mitchell's Plain houses boasting different designs (2)

Fig. 4.20 Mitchell's Plain houses boasting different designs (2)

Fig. 4.21 Mitchell's Plain houses boasting different designs (3)

Fig. 4.21 Mitchell's Plain houses boasting different designs (3)

Fig. 4.22 Mitchell's Plain houses boasting different designs (4)

Fig. 4.22 Mitchell's Plain houses boasting different designs (4)

Fig. 4.23 The Arendse family

Fig. 4.23 The Arendse family

Fig. 4.24 Mr and Mrs Arendse

Fig. 4.24 Mr and Mrs Arendse

Fig. 4.25 The Arendse children (bedroom)

Fig. 4.25 The Arendse children (bedroom)

Fig. 4.26 Mrs Arendse (kitchen)

Fig. 4.26 Mrs Arendse (kitchen)

Fig. 4.27 Mr Arendse (bathroom)

Fig. 4.27 Mr Arendse (bathroom)

34In reality, the situation was not encouraging. In 1971, when assessing the preliminary requirements for the development of Mitchell’s Plain, an initial socio-economic survey of families on the City Council’s waiting lists for houses presented what was seen as “a depressing picture” jeopardising the development of the new project on higher standards:

“78% of heads of households waiting to rent and 93% of those wishing to purchase housing earned less than R 100 and R 200 per month respectively. As a consequence 80% of dwellings in Mitchells Plain would then have to cost less than R 2,300 each to keep them within rent-paying capacity of the families who would live in them; even at the then ruling construction costs, this was a very low figure.” (Brand 1976, 4)

35In 1974 other surveys were carried out. The objective was to assess the needs of the Coloured community and consider a broader spectrum of the population—“on the basis of homes for sale to all who could afford them, regardless of whether they were on the waiting list, already housed in the Council’s letting scheme or even squatters” (ibid., 6)—since data indicated an upward trend in the incomes of the Coloured people in the Western Cape,

“the plans for the first stage of Mitchells Plain were revised in 1975 following a decision to provide for home ownership on a larger scale, so as to encourage the formation of a stable community with a financial stake in its environment. Homes would, as far as practicable, be offered, in the first instance, to tenants in low-cost schemes; the vacated homes would in turn be offered to applicants with lower incomes who were still unable to afford to buy a home. It was hoped that in this way families would be able to aspire to higher living standards as their incomes rose, and one of the major social problems associated with mass housing could hopefully be overcome.” (Ibid., 12)

36In 1978, Councillor Eulalie Scott, Housing Committee chairman at the City Council, was bitter about the ambitious mass housing development. It was not solving Cape Town’s housing shortage: “Even now the heads of some 19,000 families for whom we are responsible, including 6,000 squatters, earn less than R 200 a month. Where are those 40,000 families able to afford to buy houses in Mitchells Plain for R 8570-R 14855 supposed to be coming from?” (Financial Mail Special Report 1978, 5.) The following year, Nash publicly exposed the numerous problems that plagued the new town: unsold houses, arrears and repossessions, alleged high-pressure salesmanship, reclassification of council housing, anxiety and insecurity, discrepancies in official statements, hidden interest rates, and controversial claims and achievements. In her speech, Nash (1979, 5) stressed that “despite the backlog of 25-30 000 dwelling units, the misery of squatting, desperate overcrowding in council flats and the criminogenic conditions in the Cape Flats townships, people [were] not snapping the houses as soon as they [became] available”:

Total sales Ready but unsold
May 4 7165 1596
August 2 8365 1812

37She revealed that “arrears owed 1 in 4 of the City Council’s new homeowners rose from R 360 000 in April to R 572 000 by late July. 40 houses were repossessed in the five weeks to August 2” (ibid.) Then, she targeted City Engineer Brand for his partisanship: “public controversy in early August generated more heat than light, with City Engineer—not the Mayor/Chairman of Exco/Director of Housing—acting as City Council spokesman and denying all suggestion of undue difficulties” (ibid.).

38Mr Arendse pays “a R100 deposit and only R92 a month.” The City Council of Cape Town advertises a much higher deposit in the 1978 Mitchells Plain Special Report of the Financial Mail:

“At Mitchells Plain, Coloured families have a unique opportunity to own a home in prestigious surroundings. Prices range from R 8578 to R 15000. The deposit payable on any home is only R 300. Repayment over 30 years. Immediate occupation. Employers are invited to assist their personnel by writing to: The Town Clerk, PO Box 298, Cape Town 8000 for further details.” (Ibid.)

39Social and political activist Willie Simmers provides more details about the process: “Houses were allocated on a Sunday,” he says, “The people would gather where all the estate agents were and you had to undergo a screening process. Then you had to wait for a call to tell you whether or not you got a house and where it was.” After paying a deposit of R350, Willie and his wife Veronica moved to Rocklands in January 1979. According to him, the average house would cost R11,500,

“But people were not allowed to pay the whole amount in cash; you had to pay it off over a certain period. After all this it worked out R 22 000. People came from living in rooms, back yards and so forth, and then moved into houses for the first time in their lives. The dynamics around this were staggering. Retailers and furniture stores had a field day. Business was done on a Sunday. People bought left, right and centre and got into trouble with credit.” (Ommundsen Pessoa and Le Roux 2012, 72–3)

40As a Mitchell’s Plain Housing Sales employee, Mr Arendse might have benefited from specific terms and conditions. Nonetheless, his advertising was part of a process to induce residential filtering, which resulted from both reclassifying council dwelling units and easing financial access to home ownership in the new housing development:

“Several thousand council dwelling units (in Heideveld, Parkwood and Lavender Hill) were reclassified from economic to subeconomic, forcing tenants with incomes over the subeconomic limit to move out and enabling the council to house squatters in their place. In addition, a sliding scale of repayments was introduced for home-buyers in Mitchell’s Plain, making initial payments easier, and deposits were reduced to as little as R 100.”(Younge 1982, 24–5 [my emphasis])

41In 1980, the South African Institute of Race Relations referred again to the economic and personal reasons preventing families from moving to Mitchell’s Plain and further exposed the mismanagement and alleged fraud at Mitchell’s Plain Housing Sales—i.e. Mr Arendse’s employing firm:

“It had been anticipated that the more affluent families would move to the area, creating vacancies in older schemes for families on the waiting list who couldn’t afford Mitchell’s Plain; but it was reported that this was not happening at the desired rate. At any one time approximately 1 500 completed homes were empty. The council stated that this was not abnormal for a scheme of this size. However, commentators pointed out that it was abnormal in the context of the housing shortage. In a survey by the council’s housing committee in late 1978 it was found that only 6.5% of tenants in older schemes could afford Mitchell’s Plain. Families also resisted moving from areas where they were established to a group area further away from the city centre. Later in the year there were more than 2 000 empty new houses. A further reason for this was a reorganization of the firm handling sales, Mitchells Plain Housing Sales, formed by a consortium of the companies carrying out the building contracts. Several senior staff left the firm following revelations of irregularities and accusations that some buyers had been victims of unscrupulous salesmen. It was reported that the Cape Town Council was for the first time considering the possibility of renting some of the houses, as it felt part of the problem was that too many houses were being offered for home ownership. This move was opposed by the Residents’ Association [The beginning of rented housing began in 1982].” (Gordon et al. 1980, 476)

  • 150 Harrison and Paul (1976) mention the determination of South Africans to prevent what they considere (...)

42As the Arendses are the symbol of social mobility and thus civilisation, the first shot inside their home significantly frames them as a family watching television in a friendly and cosy room (figure 4.23). At the time of the documentary’s release, television was both a novelty and a status symbol, i.e. a “social power” identity marker. As noted earlier, South Africa adopted television very late compared to other advanced nations. The official opening of South Africa’s national television service (SABC-TV) under the Minister of Posts and Telegraph occurred in 1976. Four years later, broadcasting fell under the Minister of Foreign Affairs and Information.150 Data gathered for the national “All Media Product Survey” show how swiftly television penetrated the market after its introduction in 1976:

Television viewing “yesterday” by race group (%)

1976 1977 1978 1979 1980 1983
Whites 46 59 66 71 73 78
Coloureds 13 24 30 35 37 48
Indians 24 34 43 58 61 71
Blacks 1 1 2 3 4 11

Source: cited in Hachten and Giffard (1984, 272).

  • 151 A separate Black service was introduced for the African population on 1 January 1982, which in any (...)
  • 152 The Theron Commission distinguished three groups among the Coloured: an established middle class co (...)

43Between 1976 and 1980, the percentage of Coloureds watching TV almost tripled. It did not compare with those of the White or Indian groups.151 It remained the privilege of an established middle class152—namely the targeted group for Mitchell’s Plain—even if the cost of a television set had decreased:

  • 153 In 1979, $1 = R0.84.

“The SABC is proceeding cautiously in providing any specific television services for the non-white majority. South Africa is a First World region for most of the 4.4 million whites and some of the urban blacks, 2.4 million coloreds (of mixed race) and 765,000 Asians. But it is a Third World region for most of the 19 million blacks who are excluded from television. […] Most non-whites, who have a much lower standard of living, find the costs of a television set and license prohibitive. […] Despite their initial high costs, television sets were quickly purchased and there are an estimated three million registered sets in operation. Before 1976, there were only 2.4 million television receivers in all of black Africa. A 26-inch color receiver, originally sold for $ 1500, now costs about $ 690 [R 579]; black-and-white sets were first sold for $ 600 and are now about $ 155 [R 130].153 In addition, South Africans pay about $ 50 annually for television and radio licenses.” (Hachten 1979, 64–5)

44In the case of Mr Arendse, a R579 colour TV set and a R130 black-and-white TV set would be the equivalent of 6 and 1.5 of his declared monthly mortgage payments—quite an expense.

  • 154 Although complete control over the television was exercised by the State—ensuring the ruling Nation (...)

45The central place of television in the Arendses’s family life stresses their connections with the rest of the developed western world, both technologically and culturally.154 The sequence neutralises any impression of isolation, be it physical or intellectual, which the term “heartland” could impart. It also dispels the idea of Mitchell’s Plain as a “‘homeland’ away from the City for coloured people,” by journalist Diane Cassere on 17 November 1979 in The Cape Times (Cassere 1979, 17). Cassere published her paper in the wake of a tour conducted by City Engineer Brand with a party of journalists. “From the start Mitchells Plain has been a controversial subject, but whichever way you look at the development, it has always been exciting,” (ibid.) she writes. “The most exciting aspects of the development were, for me, the recreational area with sunken amphitheatre and vast playing fields (certainly some exciting moments on the bus as we negotiated the narrow pathway between the seating arrangements) and the vast civic centre halls” (ibid.). The passage is overly enthusiastic as if the housing development were not a dormitory township. The image of a resort cannot fail to come to the viewer’s mind when the Arendse family sequence gives way to a holiday-like beach scene with children playing and jumping into the water (figure 4.28) and men with their fishing rods (figure 4.29). Mrs Rinehart’s comments:

“Mitchell’s Plain is so near the beach that we can just take a walk; we walk in with our meat and our cool drinks and into the water. And when we come out of there, I start making the fireplace for the children to have their braai. It is fantastic; they will sing, and they will dance on the beach and don’t cost us a thing.”

Fig. 4.28 Beach (1) - Children

Fig. 4.28 Beach (1) - Children

Fig. 4.29 Beach (2) - Men and fishing rods

Fig. 4.29 Beach (2) - Men and fishing rods
  • 155 Technical Management Services (TMS) City Engineer’s Department, “Mitchells Plain Open Space Survey” (...)

46The apartheid government did not envisage Mitchell’s Plain as a busy and lively “metropolis” but as a segregated dormitory housing development, far removed from the White areas of Cape Town and isolated from the other racial communities. The first report about its development could not be more explicit about it: “Its character will perforce be that of a large dormitory town, almost entirely dependent, even ultimately, upon economic activity in other parts of the metropolitan area particularly the central business district” (Morris 1972, 10). Besides, the Mitchells Plain Open Space Survey conducted at the time of the documentary found that 90% of those interviewed spent their free time at home or in the neighbourhood,155 and criticism of the Mitchell’s Plain project had not abated, as recorded by the 1980 Survey of Race Relations:

“Professor Richard van der Ross, rector of the University of the Western Cape, said that it was the result of ill-conceived town planning based on apartheid and had been built to satisfy the Group Areas Act. The chairman of the Cape Town City Council’s housing committee, Mrs Eulalie Scott, said that the council was building Mitchells Plain only because it had not been given a large block of land anywhere else and Mr Chris Stevens, chairman of the Combined Mitchells Plain Ratepayers’ Association, said that Mitchells Plain had been devised to perpetuate the suffering and inequality of the so-called coloured people, thereby keeping them subservient.” (Gordon et al. 1981, 259)

47Under such conditions, activism seems to have developed into a way of life in Mitchell’s Plain, as former Cape Town mayor Theresa Solomon points out:

“We were some of the first people who moved into Woodlands. This is where my life as an activist began. There were a lot of issues that forced us to take action. These included the lack of schools, the lack of transport for the kids to go to schools, the washing-line campaign (maisonette living forced us to take action), no pavements, no parks for the kids to play in, no recreational facilities, no hospital, no police station in Tafelsig, and so forth.” (Ommundsen Pessoa and Le Roux 2012, 57)

48Civic struggles played an essential part in the demise of apartheid in South Africa as they shaped the specificities of the country’s liberation movement. In her conclusion, Younge (1982, 27) notes, “the high levels of political awareness and community organization on the Cape Flats are not restricted to the poorest areas—in fact, militancy in Mitchell’s Plain is as high or higher than elsewhere,” thus revealing that “there is no link between home-ownership and “stability.” Indeed, a year later, in 1983, the Rocklands community centre in Mitchell’s Plain hosted the United Democratic Front (UDF) national launch. “This was a massive achievement—launching a non-racial movement in this Coloured homeland!” (ibid., 28), admits Ryland Fisher, Chairman of Cape Town Festival and former editor of The Cape Times, who joined his parents in Mitchell’s Plain in 1981 (Ommundsen Pessoa and Le Roux 2012).

49In 1980, City Engineer Brand proudly declared, “South Africa (not to mention the City Engineer’s Department and the City Council of Cape Town) has received much favourable publicity in the foreign press and influential foreign circles as a result of visits arranged in Mitchells Plain” (Brand 1980a, 15). He specified that “220 foreign visitors and 760 visitors from South Africa were during 1979 officially conducted on tours around the Plains” (ibid., 16). Three years later, a much larger crowd thronged Mitchell’s Plain. A historical shift occurred in apartheid’s Coloured “model” housing development:

“On 20 August 1983, the United Democratic Front (UDF) was launched in Rocklands Mitchells Plain. Fifteen thousand people, young and old, black and white, Christians and Jews, Muslims and Hindus, people of all faiths. Representatives of almost 500 organizations were there, reflecting all the sectors of society […] Graced by the presence of men and women of enormous stature, Frances Baard, Helen Joseph, Archie Gumede, Oscar Mpetha, who linked the present with the past, we were not just present at a historic event; we were a piece of history ourselves. It was an immense feat, under the circumstances, a triumph of organizational acumen. Through all the speeches, the songs, the poetry, the dancing and the joy, I sensed the awareness: the people were ready. South Africa’s history was about to enter a completely new phase where we would again take politics to the streets.” (Boesak 2009, 115)

50Mitchell’s Plain was chosen for the national launch of the UDF “to emphasise the UDF’s appeal for the support of the Coloured South Africans” and “people would sleep in halls, churches and mosque, and hundreds of mattresses were hired” (Seekings 2000, 54). It is an irony of fate that the last comments of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Information documentary film can also apply to the picture given by Boesak (2009) of the event taking place on 20 August 1983. The “living colourful picture of a happy community” in Rocklands Centre that day was also “laying the foundations of a new society” and “hail[ing] the future with confidence.”

51Some mixed feelings pervade post-apartheid Mitchell’s Plain. Willie Simmers, formerly involved in the formation and launch of the UDF in Mitchell’s Plain with his wife Veronica, confesses that “it still is essentially a dormitory town. We don’t stay in Mitchell’s Plain anymore and I would like to move back. But moving back will break my wife’s heart. She still cannot get over the fact that, after our hard political work, the majority of the people in Mitchell’s Plain voted for the National Party” (Ommundsen Pessoa and Le Roux 2012, 73). In contrast, Mitchell’s Plain’s Liverpool-Portland Football Club chairperson Lutfeyah Abrahams, a pioneer family member, is adamant, “I will never move away from Mitchell’s Plain. We have been living here for 30 years. We are one of the four families still left from the time we moved in back in that day. You get problems everywhere. What’s the difference in living somewhere else? Everything is within walking distance—the beach, shops, schools, sport. The infrastructure is fantastic. All that is missing is an industrial area. It’s quiet and I’m happy” (ibid., 64).

52More worryingly, mixed feelings are pervading post-apartheid South Africa, as exposed by a recent Afrobarometer study published in 2016. In the context of the long struggle for freedom and representation, it is disturbing to see a decline in people’s support for democracy, from 72% of the respondents in 2011 to 64% of them in 2015, concomitantly to a breakthrough of the authoritarian preference (‘sometimes non-democratic is preferable’) rising from 15% to 17% (Lekalake 2016, 3). It is disconcerting to see that 6 of 10 South Africans (61%) say they are willing to forego elections “in favour of a non-elected government or leader that could impose law and order, and deliver houses and jobs” (ibid., 4).

Notes

132 Gasant, Maruwan, “They Said It Could Never Happen” (Cape Herald, 31 August 1976); quoted in its entirety in Western (1981, 261–2).

133 Geduld (2004) reports on a recent ceremony honouring the memory of the young victim.

134 “In 1984, the Bonteheuwel Inter-Schools Congress (BISCO) was formed to co-ordinate the activities of the various student representative councils (SRCs) which were rallying around issues of inequalities in apartheid schooling and the repression of legitimate political protest […] It was in this context that the ‘formation of a militant body to co-ordinate and intensify revolutionary activities, especially at the Bonteheuwel High Schools’ was conceived by BISCO members. At a meeting in 1985, it was decided to form a structure that would protect the community of Bonteheuwel, render Bonteheuwel ungovernable and ‘hit out’ against any organ of the state. This structure became the Bonteheuwel Military Wing (BMW). The vast majority of its active members were students between the ages of fourteen and eighteen years of age. While the formation of the BMW was not part of the strategic plan of the United Democratic Front (UDF) in the Western Cape, its emergence was welcomed and endorsed by the organization.” (TRC 1998, vol. 4, chap. 9, sub-section 15, 280 [§ 1-8])

135 Archives of the National Library of Cape Town, South Africa, ref. AP1982-632.

136 An overview is given by Kruger and van den Heever (2018), Communications and marketing office of UWC.

137 Archives of the National Library of Cape Town, South Africa, ref. AP1982-632.

138 Black and Nauright (1998) devote an entire chapter to analysing Black rugby and sports.

139 To Kidd (1988, 643–64), the campaign to isolate South African sport was enjoying widespread popular support.

140 Robin Cohen argues that the state’s role defines how relations of production are reproduced. These are legitimated through the construction of an ideology supporting labour migration. According to him, “the myths of social mobility, equal opportunity, and independent proprietorship all act to support and mentally alleviate the general extraction of surplus value from those who give credence to such myths” (Cohen, Robin, The New Helots: Migration in the International Division of Labour [Oxford Publishing Services, 1988], 79; quoted in Ndegwa, Horner and Esau [2007, 12]).

141 The first construction phase of Mitchell’s Plain started in 1975; the second phase was in 1981.

142 “Prior to 1974, the policy of the Cape Town City Council had been one of building houses and flats at minimum cost for occupation by the many thousands of poorer Coloured families on the Council’s waiting lists. National Housing funds were available only for the dwellings and basic services and the Council had been obliged to provide all amenities from its own limited financial resources. As a result, the townships lacked adequate amenities and community facilities; this was a source of considerable dissatisfaction to their inhabitants. The building of more expensive dwellings for home ownership was restricted by availability of national housing funds and this form of development received a lower priority than that accorded to the building of low cost lettings. […] Agreement was reached with central government that Mitchells Plain would be financed entirely by the central government, including all amenities, and that it would be built to concepts of planning which were largely new to local authority housing in South Africa. The objective was to plan a series of new suburbs, each self-contained in respect of a wide range of community facilities. The decision was made to build for home-ownership as far as the market would bear and thereafter to build for rental, but to a similar standard and with the option to purchase.” (Brand 1980a, 1)

143 “Although this cost structure has restricted the sale of houses to existing Council tenants to those with relatively high incomes, it has certainly established a prestige value to the area. 29% of the houses so far sold have been purchased by Council’s tenants.” (Mabin 1977, 16)

144 “Not all marriages were given equal recognition as they had to be solemnized in accordance with the provisions of the Marriage Act (Act no. 25 of 1961) and not ‘potentially polygamous.’ This means that marriages according to Muslim or Hindu rites or African customary law might not be fully recognized. The law was subsequently changed and marriages undertaken after November 1, 1984—under the Marital Property Act (Act no. 88 of 1984)—were no longer subject to male marital power and further legislation in December 1993 finally abolished the marital power of in all civil marriages of whatever date.’” Note: “The legislation also repealed a number of other discriminatory laws relating, inter alia, to citizenship, attendance at trials, dismissal of female employees if they marry, the position of the husband as ‘head of household’ and generally to legal capacity.” (Nowrojee 1995, 27–8)

145 Ewert and Du Toit (2005) see a kind of “neo-paternalism,” a combination of “modern” and “paternalist” farm management, emerging in the post-apartheid period.

146 “[W]idespread alcoholism on Western Cape farms is a contributing factor as to why workers struggle to defend their working conditions or wages.” (White 2010, 675).

147 “At the centre of leisure control were the liquor restrictions. The attempt to control black drinking is a theme that has generated a growing body of research. It is a theme which has many dimensions to it. Liquor control has been a form of cultural domination. It has been an assault on the informal sector and on the economic position of women. It has been a form of labour control and an instrument of segregation. Municipal liquor monopolies have provided the fiscal base for the institutions and mechanisms created to control the underclasses. The nature of liquor control has varied from place to place, from time to time.” (Maylam 1995, 31)

148 The Institute of South African Architects, established in 1927, was renamed the South African Institute of Architects in 1996.

149 Toyi-toyi is “a quasi-military dance-step characterized by high-stepping movements, performed either on the spot or while moving slowly forwards, usu. by participants in (predominantly black) protest gatherings or marches, and accompanied by chanting, singing [of freedom songs], and the shouting of slogans” (Silva et al. 1996, 730).

150 Harrison and Paul (1976) mention the determination of South Africans to prevent what they considered the undesirable side-effects of television, namely aggressive behaviour.

151 A separate Black service was introduced for the African population on 1 January 1982, which in any case, remained firmly under the Afrikaner-dominated South African Broadcasting Corporation. See Jackson (1982).

152 The Theron Commission distinguished three groups among the Coloured: an established middle class constituting perhaps 20% of the population, a middle group of perhaps 40% between the middle class and the chronically poor and a bottom stratum of perhaps 40% perceived as trapped in a subculture of chronic and institutionalised community poverty.

153 In 1979, $1 = R0.84.

154 Although complete control over the television was exercised by the State—ensuring the ruling National Party’s pluralistic policy and a positive image of South Africa—it formed part of Botha’s “Total National Strategy.” However, Americanisation progressed: “The second obvious terrain of Americanization in the 1970s was, of course, television. Historian Rob Nixon has explored the Afrikaner Nationalists' long refusal to keep this quintessential American medium out of South Africa, and the combination of circumstances that caused them ultimately to relent. Suffice to say, that much of what they feared—an avalanche of American commercial programs, promoting values foreign to "the South African way of life"—has come to pass. Between the high costs of local production and the South African boycott by the British union Equity, an increasing percentage of American shows appeared on South African screens” (Campbell 1998, 28).

155 Technical Management Services (TMS) City Engineer’s Department, “Mitchells Plain Open Space Survey” (1980), 34; quoted in Le Grange (1987, 61).

Table des illustrations

Titre Fig. 4.1 Mrs Rinehart’s house and garden
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Titre Fig. 4.2 Mrs Rinehart
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Titre Fig. 4.3 Mrs Rinehart's daughters (1) - Adelaide
URL http://books.openedition.org/africae/docannexe/image/3979/img-3.jpg
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Titre Fig. 4.4 Mrs Rinehart's daughters (2) - Dominique
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Titre Fig. 4.5 Mrs Rinehart's daughters (3) - Penelope
URL http://books.openedition.org/africae/docannexe/image/3979/img-5.jpg
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Titre Fig. 4.6 Pupils streaming out of school and crossing an avenue (1)
URL http://books.openedition.org/africae/docannexe/image/3979/img-6.jpg
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Titre Fig. 4.7 Pupils streaming out of a school and crossing an avenue (2)
URL http://books.openedition.org/africae/docannexe/image/3979/img-7.jpg
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Titre Fig. 4.8 Pupils streaming out of a school and crossing an avenue (3)
URL http://books.openedition.org/africae/docannexe/image/3979/img-8.jpg
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Titre Fig. 4.9 Pupils streaming out of a school and crossing an avenue (4)
URL http://books.openedition.org/africae/docannexe/image/3979/img-9.jpg
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Titre Fig. 4.10 Sports facilities (1) - Rugby game
URL http://books.openedition.org/africae/docannexe/image/3979/img-10.jpg
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Titre Fig. 4.11 Sports facilities (2) - Happy crowd
URL http://books.openedition.org/africae/docannexe/image/3979/img-11.jpg
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Titre Fig. 4.12 Sports facilities (3) - Cheering teams
URL http://books.openedition.org/africae/docannexe/image/3979/img-12.jpg
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Titre Fig. 4.13 Sports facilities (4) - Runners in a stadium
URL http://books.openedition.org/africae/docannexe/image/3979/img-13.jpg
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Titre Fig. 4.14 Mr Claasens (1)
URL http://books.openedition.org/africae/docannexe/image/3979/img-14.jpg
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Titre Fig. 4.15 Mr Claasens (2)
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Titre Fig. 4.16 Mr and Mrs Claasens (Film still used by permission of GCIS)
URL http://books.openedition.org/africae/docannexe/image/3979/img-16.jpg
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Titre Fig. 4.17 Westridge Hall (1) - Dancers
URL http://books.openedition.org/africae/docannexe/image/3979/img-17.jpg
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Titre Fig. 4.18 Westridge Hall (2) - Musicians
URL http://books.openedition.org/africae/docannexe/image/3979/img-18.jpg
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Titre Fig. 4.19 Mitchell's Plain houses boasting different designs (1)
URL http://books.openedition.org/africae/docannexe/image/3979/img-19.jpg
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Titre Fig. 4.20 Mitchell's Plain houses boasting different designs (2)
URL http://books.openedition.org/africae/docannexe/image/3979/img-20.jpg
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Titre Fig. 4.21 Mitchell's Plain houses boasting different designs (3)
URL http://books.openedition.org/africae/docannexe/image/3979/img-21.jpg
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Titre Fig. 4.22 Mitchell's Plain houses boasting different designs (4)
URL http://books.openedition.org/africae/docannexe/image/3979/img-22.jpg
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Titre Fig. 4.23 The Arendse family
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Titre Fig. 4.24 Mr and Mrs Arendse
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Titre Fig. 4.25 The Arendse children (bedroom)
URL http://books.openedition.org/africae/docannexe/image/3979/img-25.jpg
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Titre Fig. 4.26 Mrs Arendse (kitchen)
URL http://books.openedition.org/africae/docannexe/image/3979/img-26.jpg
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Titre Fig. 4.27 Mr Arendse (bathroom)
URL http://books.openedition.org/africae/docannexe/image/3979/img-27.jpg
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Titre Fig. 4.28 Beach (1) - Children
URL http://books.openedition.org/africae/docannexe/image/3979/img-28.jpg
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Titre Fig. 4.29 Beach (2) - Men and fishing rods
URL http://books.openedition.org/africae/docannexe/image/3979/img-29.jpg
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