Bonteheuwel’s Freedom Square stands as a symbol of the struggle against past atrocities and a reminder to guard against repeating them.
This sentiment echoed in the words of the dignitaries who spoke at the unveiling of a plaque, on Monday March 8, to commemorate the square’s recognition as a provincial heritage site.
The square was a hub of resistance to the apartheid system and was a site of political meetings, said Cultural Affairs and Sport MEC Anroux Marais.
“Freedom Square indeed embodies the spirit and legacy of Bonteheuwel’s heroes and heroines,” she said. “Its spaces, buildings and memories bear significance for social and cultural reasons in representing defiance against the unjust apartheid state.”
Ron Martin, from Heritage Western Cape, said it was important to acknowledge the efforts of those who had resisted apartheid.
“Many sacrifices were made by parents for the community including sending their kids out into the battlefield. The symbols of resistance are being highlighted now. Bonteheuwel, you can be proud of your role in the recognition of this heritage site today. Your voice was heard,” he said.
Felicity Harrison, from the Institute for Justice and Reconciliation, said there needed to be individual and collective acknowledgement of past injustices, and the guilty should be held accountable. There could be no healing unless that happened.
“The trauma of poverty is violent, and it continues to torment us,” she said. “It is so important to be here today, to recognise the importance of Freedom Square for the community and the country. It serves as a remembrance of a dark past and the price paid for freedom. It is a lesson for our children of their grandparent’s and great-grandparents. As a country we still have a lot to do.”
Chairman of the Bonteheuwel Ratepayers and Tenants Association, Yusuf Cassiem, said the country could not move forward and heal without acknowledging its past, a past that should never be repeated. No-one could change history, but they could create a better future for their children, he said.
“We need to share knowledge with our children. We have lost many comrades. This Freedom Square is a small piece of the puzzle of the big South African freedom because where we come from we don’t know freedom.
“I remember the lack of services, stress on our parents to be able to afford to live, having money for food, electricity, and water. Our lights and water being disconnected middle of the night due to arrears. The main cause of our struggle financially was apartheid.”
He added: “We commit ourselves to be part of the plan for a better future for Bonteheuwel.”
ANC MP for the greater Athlone constituency Faiez Jacobs, said Freedom Square represented the collective memory of District Six and it was the site of untold stories of all those who had sacrificed their lives for a better future.
“It is an honour bestowed on the martyrs of our community,” he said. “It is also a painful memory of our elders who cared and nurtured the generations before us. It is the proud medal of honour won by the Bonteheuwel organisations and associations.
“Freedom is a choice we make about our futures. We must claim Freedom Square to the legacy of all founding fathers and mothers who didn’t come here as a choice. Freedom Square is a heritage project to acknowledge and recognise our past and sense of present and create our future. It is an opportunity to reflect on your own memories. It must continue to serve as a catalyst to bring us together.”
Bonteheuwel ward councillor Angus McKenzie said Freedom Square should be used to bring people together.
“We owe it to those who fought for freedom in this country. Bonteheuwel’s fight for freedom doesn’t belong to an individual, it is a collective. Our hard work, commitment, and passion must be a guide to ensure change. We will continue to make Bonteheuwel a safer place,” he said.