|Dispersal of South End|
Before the National Party came into power in 1948, South End and other parts of Port Elizabeth were very multi-cultural and multi-racial. Whites, coloureds, Indians, Chinese and Africans lived in harmony and intermingled with each other freely. There was no general feeling of racism or hatred, nor was there any desire for separateness or discrimination. Instead, there was a spirit of community; a way of life where people could confide in their neighbours regardless of their skin colour and where they knew that they could turn to the people around them for help during difficult times. It was as if colour did not exist.
Unfortunately, this almost idyllic mentality was promptly halted in 1948 when the National Party came into power. Before long, the people living in South End received notification that they were expected to leave their family homes and choose a new place to live in racially allocated areas. Failure to comply would result in very negative repercussions as their possessions would be thrown out into the street and their homes would be destroyed, leaving them homeless.
The residents of South End were usually given a choice of several homes in a pre-allocated area, which was chosen according to their skin colour and income level. They would then have to choose a home, return to confirm their choice with the Group Areas Act officials at the buildings in Eben Donges and were then given a certain time frame in which to move. Most often they were given just seven days to abandon the homes that had been passed down from one generation to the next, the friends that they had grown up with and the lives they had lived up until that point. Understandably, many were reluctant to leave. But the new government actively enforced this new dispersal and segregation. A part of the exhibit covering this tragic period in the city’s history is full of heart-wrenching photographic images of the complete destruction that the area underwent as the buildings were first bulldozed and then burnt to the ground simply because they had formerly belonged to people of another skin colour.
The people of South End were not the only ones affected by these new laws. Areas such as Fairview, Bethelsdorp, Central/Hill, Korsten, Salisbury Park, North End, Sidwell and Neave Township where also ‘disqualified’ in terms of the Group Areas Act of 1957 due to their multi-cultural communities. As a result, homes and businesses in these areas were also decimated by apartheid proponents at the time.
The Africans were sent to the townships on the boundaries of the city. They could choose a home in the areas known as New Brighton, Kwazakele, Zwide and Swartkops. Coloureds were given homes in Korsten, Gelvandale, Bethelsdorp, Booysens Park and Bloemendal. Indians were sent to Malabar, while Chinese people were told to move to Kabega Park. What was once a proud, multi-cultural community was completely shattered and it has never quite recovered since then. Even today, people of these different ethnic groups are still largely concentrated in the areas in which they were sent to live during the Apartheid regime, making true re-integration and harmony difficult at best.