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Welcome to Mitchell’s Plain

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Ludmila Ommundsen Pessoa

Appendix: Transcript

Texte intégral

Mitchells Plain, 1980, Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Information (17:48 minutes)
Director/Cameraman: Steve Theunissen
Production Manager: Ria Coetzer
Editor: Alastair Henderson
Script and producer: Sakkie Van der Walt

1Mankind, with his incredible technology, has conquered many problems in the twentieth century. He thrusts out into space and makes ghost-like satellites to travel into eternal circles as his slaves. And when from space he looks back at his home, he sees a romantic blue ball.

2And yet, back on Earth, he is struggling to provide decent living space for a fast-growing world population. All over the world, the most beautiful cities, the most prosperous peoples must still contend with annoying need for housing. 20% of the population of one of the world’s great cities live in slums with no municipal service. In another historic city, two out of every three families live in a single room. Even in wealthy countries, millions of people live in sub-standard houses. More than a thousand million people in Asia, South America and Africa are homeless, albeit to a lesser degree.

3Since World War II, the Republic of South Africa has experienced the same housing problem as the rest of the world. Industrial growth enticed large numbers of people to South Africa’s principal cities at a faster rate than the giant housing programs could progress. Slums developed, and South Africans were shocked to the core by conditions like these. The problem was not confined to slums. In older housing schemes, overcrowding began to cause serious headaches. Parliament voted millions of rands for housing schemes, and the Department of Community Development set to work to eliminate the pressing housing shortage. Vast housing projects were launched: Eldorado Park and Ennerdale between Johannesburg and Vereeniging, Atlantis on the West Coast near Cape Town, Phoenix in Natal and Mitchell’s Plain.

4Mitchell’s Plain, one of the most exciting housing projects in the world, is situated in the heartland of South Africa’s Coloured community above 25 km from Cape Town and within the city’s municipal boundaries. A metropolis of a quarter of a million people in 40,000 houses is being developed here by the Cape Town City Council in cooperation with the Department of Community Development, which was set up to deal with the establishment of communities and the housing of all South Africans. For the Mitchell’s Plain project, the Department made lands available at a low-interest rate to the Cape City Council through the National Housing Fund and the Council, in turn, planned and developed the townships and sold the houses to prospective Coloured owners at a very low deposit and with subsidised bond interest rates.

5Mitchell’s Plain sprang up by an extensive stretch of land with a beautiful 9 km seafront between Muizenberg and the Strand. Large parts of the area had to be evened out with bulldozers. Because of its sandy nature, the ground had to be stabilised with straw and rolled firm to provide excellent building stands. When Mitchell’s Plain is completed, 15 million cubic meters of earth will have been moved to make room for 160 townships with about 250 stands each. A building tempo of 700 houses a month, that is to say, 33 houses a day, was maintained. The construction of Mitchell’s Plain heralded a period of growth for many Cape industries. This brickworks was built to provide the millions of bricks needed for the new town.

6With the accent on house ownership rather than rented accommodation in Mitchell’s Plain, a wide variety of designs is offered to prospective buyers. After a survey of potential owners’ tastes and preferences, the planning division of the Cape Town City Council created no less than 70 house designs for Mitchell’s Plain. The positioning of the houses on the stands was planned to provide the maximum variety and privacy.

7In addition to the shops in every township, a large central business complex is being built by the Department of Community Development. This centre, which will cost more than R15 million, will eventually form the heart of the new city. It is expected that more than 5,000 people will be employed in its shops and offices. Right next to the city centre, the main railway station is near in completion. Altogether three stations will serve the town’s 30,000 to 50,000 daily commuters. Altogether 40,000 workers are employed in building the town, and many opportunities for enterprises have been created.

8Mr Dudley will tell us more about it: “Model Development Company has been building houses for the last 20 years, and we went in for this contract here at Mitchell’s Plain, a contract of 4,960 houses. We completed that in 33 months. At present, I am busy with another 165 houses, and in the middle of this month, I intend going on to another 2,500 houses. That’s our project at present in Mitchell’s Plain.”

9No overhead power and telephone lines disfigure the streets of Mitchell’s Plain. Nevertheless, electric power and telephones are available for every house as these services are made possible by hidden underground cables. Because Mitchell’s Plain was regarded, right from the start, as the establishment of a healthy, vital community rather than simply a housing project, quality houses have been built, and much has been done to beautify the area. Residents own their homes, and they have pride in the fruits of their work in the neat gardens.

10For most of them, Mitchell’s Plain means not only new houses but a new life. Mrs Rinehart describes her own experience: “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.”

11The National Housing Commission also made loans available for the construction of community facilities. Even as the houses were still being built. 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. Technical training, as well as higher education through an extramural division of the University of the Western Cape, are also envisaged here. But 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. Just a stone’s throw from home, neat little parks with permanent playgrounds ensure that the small fry can use up their energy. At Mitchell’s Plain, community services are growing with the town.

12After 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?

13Of 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.

14Designed according to their expected traffic load, Mitchell’s Plain’s roads vary from broad two-lane highways to quiet cul-de-sacs in the residential areas. Customers have plenty of choice, whether in lively roadside vegetable stalls or in the modern supermarket nearby. And when the shopping is done, the baseball field and other sports grounds are within easy reach.

15But the pride of many people’s lives is their garden, and surely gardening in the fresh air is just as relaxing as sport. And what about exercises of relaxation to the mind? The library is a popular meeting place for old and young. Its comprehensive collection of books is attracting an ever-growing number of readers to fill their leisure hours there. [A librarian is reading a story to a group of children:] “Once upon a time, there were three billy goats who were to go up to the hillside to make themselves fat. The name of all three was ‘Gruff.’ And on the way up was a bridge, and under the bridge the great ugly troll…” Not a bad alternative for the cinema around the corner when pocket money runs low.

16A healthy community is a happy community. Medical help and advice are at hand. And this service is avidly used. Ample provision has also been made for the spiritual well-being [psalm singing by congregation followed by sermon told by priest:] ”If you obey the commands of the Lord your God, which I give you today, if you love him, obey him, and keep all his laws, then you will prosper and become a nation of many people.” Suffer little children to come unto me, and forbid them not, for of such is the kingdom of Heaven. In the spirit of this command, this church is transformed into a nursery school on weekdays, moulding the future men and women of Mitchell’s Plain.

17But 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.

18[Mrs Rinehart] “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.”

19Alongside the blue depth and foam-tipped crests of False Bay, Man, with his skill, is painting a living colourful picture of a happy community. Like Ennerdale, Eldorado Park, Atlantis and Phoenix, this is a nation’s answer to a worldwide problem that is also threatening our people, thus laying the foundations of a new society. South Africa hails the future with confidence.

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