Street’s heritage reclaimed

Ebrahim Safter from District Six, wears an old Hanover Street sign.

Thousands of people saw the unveiling of the Hanover Street sign on the corner of Russell Street, District Six, in a renaming ceremony on Heritage Day, last Tuesday.

In a public participation process in July more than 1 195 people had their say, with 1 157 people supporting the renaming of
Keizersgracht to Hanover Street and 38 people raising objections, leading to the City council approving the renaming on August 22.

The renaming ceremony was attended by District Six claimants, former District Six residents, Thoko Didiza, the Minister of Agriculture, Land Reform and Rural Development and City of Cape Town officials and marching bands.

Cape Town mayor Dan Plato lifted the shutter on a street post to reveal the Hanover Street name.

He hopes the symbolic act of restoring the historical name of Hanover Street will help ease some of the pain for people who were forcefully removed from the area. A plaque was also unveiled by Mr Plato.

Mr Plato said he is committed towards working with the Department of Agriculture, Land Reform and Rural Development to assist the claimants in getting restitution.

“I told the minister the two of us can work together, let us restore some of the dignity and ease
some of the pain as a joint force,” he said.

Ms Didiza agreed with Mr Plato and said her department is prepared to work collectively with the City to help the claimants get restitution.

“In my discussions with the mayor and councillors, we agreed that we must find a solution to deal with this matter and the renaming of Hanover Street will go a long way in rebuilding a community and restoring dignity to the people of District Six,” she said.

Former District Six resident, Carol Petersen, 65, from Retreat, felt honoured to be at the ceremony as she has fond memories of the old Hanover Street.

“I remember buying my school uniform at Waynicks when I went to Vista High in Bo-Kaap and going to my favourite hairdresser,” she recalled.

Current District Six resident, Ebrahim Safter, 56, who stays in Francis Street, said he feels great about the renaming, even though it is not the original road where the former Hanover Street was.

“At least we’re reclaiming something, so rename it, Hanover
Street will become alive again,” he said.

District Six claimant, Shahied Martheze, 60, from Kensington said he never thought the renaming of Hanover Street would ever happen. “The memories which were taken away from here will return again,” he said.

Bonita Bennet , director of the District Six Museum, said though she supports the renaming of Hanover Street, she wished the process had been done differently.

“It is difficult to support something which is wrong, we would have liked the name of Hanover Street to be restored to its original place after the redevelopment of District Six has been completed, though now that opportunity is lost,” she said.

Tania Kleinhans-Cedras, the District Six Advocacy Committee chairperson, supports the renaming of Hanover Street even though the District Six landscape has changed. “Hanover Street resonates with claimants of District Six, however, you can never say the new location defines where the original roads have been, Cape Peninsula University of Technology (CPUT) has taken up a large part of land, so you can never bring back what was formerly,” she said.

The District Six Working Committee (D6WC) initiated the renaming process by submitting their proposal to the City to rename Hanover Street from Keizersgracht Street.

Shahied Ajam, D6WC chairperson, said the renaming process was a culmination of hard work, not only from his organisation but from the people of District Six.

“Today was proof that taking back the name of Hanover Street, the people of District Six are serious in having their dignity restored holistically,” he said.

Mr Ajam said he is encouraged that Ms Didiza and Mr Plato are engaging constructively on the District Six restitution process.