Thursday, June 7, 2007

1964-65 Apartheid, Durban North Indians

Skelm and I smaaked Durban North Rocket Hut Beach, a fishing spot for Indian and white fishermen, a beach where skates parked their cars to booze and smoke dagga. Homos went there. Skelm and I hunted shaggers in tickberry bushes. When we heard panting and squealing, we lobbed sticks and clods on blankets. A head or two popped out, and if we were lucky we saw bare numbis. Once, a big man chased us to hell-an'-gone, caught Skelm and clouted him.

Durban North whiteys had a dirty secret: Indians living near them, and indifference to their fate. Once, when hitching along N2 freeway, north of the Umgeni River, Skelm and I threw clods at outcast Indian boys, running from "black spot" shacks, where flags on top of bamboo poles advertised marriageable Hindu maidens. Indians chucked clods at us, tuning, "What yous cheeky whitey lighties doin' by da 'ouse ek se? 'Ave yous gotta skyf ek se?"

"Jislaaik!" said Skelm. "Pull out Coolie! Don' tune us skraal!"

One bad hitching day, when Skelm and I sweated past shacks, an Indian asked, "Why yous uncles sending it so fa' an' all?"

"We're goin' surfin' an' you thievin' charras aren't allowed on Europeans' North Beach." We ran along the freeway calling, "Coolie- Coolie-Coolie!..."

Outcast Indian market-gardeners sold crops at Warrick Avenue Indian market. Sammy Naidoo strode from Riverside slum carrying a bamboo pole over his shoulders. Two wicker baskets filled with produce hung from the pole. Once a week, Sammy knocked on our back door, calling, "Fruit an' vege-tables maram. Wachu smaak?" Sammy eventually bought a truck, and drove about Durban North selling vegetables and fruit. After Sammy's truck stopped at our gate, Rosie haggled prices on our back stoep. Sammy barefoot-stomped on scuttling cockroaches, leaving smeared fat on our concrete floor and gunge between his toes.

According to the 1950 Group Areas Act, Durban North Riverside and Red Hill Indians were cast out to Chatsworth, south of Durban, splintered from the white CBD and Grey Street Indian CBD. Some Indians remained in freehold brick-and-tile homes, until they too were forcibly moved to a separate Indian location, like Phoenix, north of Durban. Bulldozers rubbled... Mango trees and ruins remained. The Indian school, renamed Phoenix School, became a special school for whites with learning disabilities. Durban North whites were splintered from swart gevaar by the Indian Ocean, poorer Red Hill westwards, and a coloured area across North Coast Road, over the hill from Greenwood Park. Nor'westwards, beyond sugarcane fields lurked natives' KwaMashu.

To splinter the English vote, government built an Afrikaanse Hoer Skool near the Hindu temple on Umgeni River north bank. Post-apartheid the hoer skool was re-named Durban North College. Former Durban North Indian residents, Indian devotees came from afar to worship at the temple. A white primary school was built on cleared slum-land. Umgeni Road Tent Crusader built a Living Waters Church where Durban North Indians once slummed. Happy-clappy, "I love you Jesus...praise the Lord," whiteys worshipped there, no love lost for former Indian residents. A Pick 'n Pay hypermarket, new houses and retirement cottages for rich whiteys were built where Indians once slummed. Durban North Indian slum became part of whitey Durban North, smothered by urban sprawl.

I never heard protest about the Group Areas Act splintering the Indian community, from English-speaking Durban North whiteys, or Greenwood Park, Red Hill, Virginia and Glenashley whitey suburbs, all north of the Umgeni. I never heard whiteys protest about Durban North Indian forced removals. I never heard protests from complicit Durban North Methodist, nor complicit Saint Martins Anglican pulpits. Durban North was a whitey "United Party" suburb (no Indians nor other non-whites allowed), and later whitey "Progressive Party" suburb. Sometimes, a few whitey Black Sash ladies stood silently protesting on Northway near Robina Stores, watching passing cars.

Durban municipality landscaped a Japanese Garden on part of the old Indian slum. Thousands of outcast Indians visited, especially during weekends. Apartheid splintered Durban North Indian community, one of many Durban Indian communities obliterated by apartheid. "It'sa helluva t'ing Mak," cackled Rosie, "a heeeelluva t'ing!"

1 comment:

Mark JS Esslemont said...

June 2007 email from a Durban Grey Street webmaster:

"You are welcome to make links to our website as it will increase our hits. It's our aim to popularize our website throughout the world and we can only be able to achieve that by interlinking with other websites."