Pensioners go back in history

A group of Langa senior citizens met at the museum on Freedom Day to share some of their past experiences.

They met in the early hours of the morning on Freedom Day at the old Langa post office, which is currently a museum, to share their painful experiences of the apartheid era.

Langa’s senior citizens, like all black people across the country, faced the full wrath of the apartheid system.

They were disenfranchised, displaced, prosecuted, held without trial, ridiculed, assaulted and robbed of their land during the country’s dark days.

Their freedom of movement was also controlled and they had to carry special pass books.

Some had to sacrifice the life they could have had with family and leave Cape Town.

Nimza Mnotoza, 78, remembers how especially those who lived in hostels were ill treated by the apartheid government.

She said people can smile today when the stories are told but the apartheid era was painful for all.

Those who arrived in Langa from the Eastern Cape were humiliated by being forced to dip themselves in trenches of water “like cows”.

“Women were not allowed in the hostels. People without dom passes were chased like dogs in the streets. We were living in two-roomed houses then. The toilets were outside. The funny part was when those who came to work in Cape Town were dipped. There was a special dip for them. This is how our people were treated,” she recalled.

But she said what was important at the time was the unity of people. She said unlike today, people were united during the apartheid era. “We would hide those who did not have passes, under our beds. We would also alert them when the police were coming,” said Ms Mnotoza.

Although she feels people are better treated now than before, she is not happy about the fact that people still live in poverty.

“We are better off than before, but I believe a lot more can be done. The government could do much better,” she said.

Paul Mhlom remembered how the government did not allow teachers from outside Cape Town to come and teach here, especially those who came to teach maths and science subjects.

Mr Mhlom worked for the Nyanga school board and had to take directions from the Native Affairs Department. The 73-year-old said schools had a big problem with maths and science but Native Affairs would not approve the hiring of teachers.

“Teachers had to apply for a place to stay. We would go see if the place was good. Then the Native Affairs would approve. But the said teacher would go to the prescribed areas only. And he/she could not work or do another job. The permit was clear on that,” he said.

Seventy-three-year-old Mangwanya Mgani said she was in and out of police vans because she had no permit to visit her husband. She said she became familiar with Roeland Street where they were taken to when arrested.

“My husband lived in an area called eMankcenkceni in now Kensington. Everytime I visited him I had to climb high walls running away from the police and indunas. Harassment was an everyday thing. At some point I was arrested four times in one month. They would tell us that Mathanzima was waiting for us in Transkei. The situation was really bad then,” she said.

Despite challenges they had to deal with, they are now happy to enjoy the fruits of their toils. But they have concerns with the new government after 24 years of freedom, like the shortage of houses, unemployment of young people and some feel uncared for. Some said there is hope that things would get better with time.