Friday, January 4, 2008

2008. Durban Apartheid Indians, 1960s - 1970s

1930s. Zulu Kraal, Drummond, Natal, SA.

Dutchmen and shloopy English, with racist fantasies, promulgated the evolution of black homelands (Homelands Citizenship Act 1970), forcing millions of blacks to lose their SA citizenship. When not working in separate white areas, blacks were forced to go "home," existing in impoverished homelands, although millions had lived in white areas and "black spots" and "grey areas" for years. About three and a half million people were force-moved during apartheid.

Fraser and I voted Progressive Party and persuaded mom to do likewise. She'd voted United Party, and later on her mother Rosa's Afrikaner upbringing had caused her to vote Nat. Fraser and I put her right. We were conscripted by non-conscript Broederbonders, and objected to our lives being fucked up by racists. Short of living in black townships, becoming saints, or choosing exile, emigration, or gaol, Fraser and I continued our young men pursuits: work, girls, sports, and avoiding call-ups and army promotions.

Due to the Group Areas Act, our Indian servant Rosie was force-moved twice. We witnessed the destruction of the Durban North Indian community, where houses and shanties were razed. Just ruins and an Indian temple remained on Umgeni north bank. Later, upmarket white houses, schools, a church and shops were built on old Durban North Indian land. There was little protest from Durban North whites about destruction of the Indian community. There was little protest from Durban North Methodist, nor Saint Martins Anglican pulpits.

Rosie's May Street slum was razed. She and other Indians had lived on valuable CBD land, opposite where the new Durban Station was later built. Supermarkets and other businesses were built on Indian land. May Street area near Greyville Racecourse was left vacant. Years later, after influx control was abolished, impoverished Zulus squatted on Rosie's old land, in scrap plastic, cardboard, wooden, corrugated iron shanties. Other Indians continued living in the Grey Street area throughout apartheid.

Eileen Warmington, one of moms' spinster friends, was headmistress of Indian pupils at Dartnell Crescent School, Curries Fountain, for many years during apartheid. While growing up, Fraser and I scoffed many meals at Eileen's and her twin sister Elva Warmington's Sydenham Road home. In later years, my father-in-law Alexander (Alec) Mackintosh taught electrical trade theory to Indian students at ML Sultan Technical College, and one of my varsity friends taught PT to Indian students at ML Sultan.

Rosie lived with her extended family at Gum Tree Road squatter camp, Jacobs, on Durban's south side. When Rosie became old and stiff, finding Indian bussing too hard, she slept in our enclosed back porch for years. Mom broke the law, as Indians and whites weren't allowed to live together during apartheid. Mom joked, "Work keeps Rosie alive darlings."

During weekends, I drove Rosie to her shanty family. Rosie's nephew Jimmy and his three wives were hospitable, despite poverty. I ate many curries under their hot, iron roof. We attended Shorty Naidoo's wedding at Gum Tree Road squatter camp. Rosie had raised grandson Shorty at her May Street slum.

When Gum Tree Road shanties were razed, Rosie moved further south with her extended family to Chatsworth location. Fraser and I witnessed three Indian communities obliterated by apartheid. Many Durban communities were destroyed by apartheid.

After Rosie died, her family buried her in a pauper's grave in Chatsworth Cemetery. Mom helped pay funeral costs. We were the only whites at Rosie's funeral.

After teaching each day, mom had arrived home exhausted, and lay abed all afternoon. She emerged from her bedroom for Rosie's warmed up suppers. Fraser gobbled suppers, then skedaddled. I stared at mom's depressed, rigid face during many silent suppers.

Sometimes mom reminisced about her shenanigans at her Wesleyan HS, Grahamstown and Natal University, Maritzburg, where she'd read her BA. When she read her MA after teaching at Melmoth, Zululand and Wentworth, Durban, she stayed with her folks at The Hove, Durban beachfront, before marrying dad at the end of WW2.

1974. Zulu Kraal near Cathedral Peak, Drakensberg, SA.

Copyright Mark JS Esslemont.

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