Book launch and film screenings focus on forced removals

Susan Lewis, Fairuz Achmat Basardien, both from District Six, and her sister Fowzia Achmat, from Bo-kaap.

Old wounds were reopened during a book launch and film screenings that focused on Apartheid’s forced removals and the propaganda that the government of the time was telling the world.

Residents uprooted from their District Six hometown during the Apartheid regime lament: “What have we done?” “Why do we have to leave here”, from an area they knew “every stone”.

Susan Lewis, a District Six returnee and guide at the District Six Museum, spoke at the screening of Mitchells Plain (1980), a propaganda documentary made by the South African Apartheid government and distributed worldwide in showcasing the construction of a “model township”, and snippets of This Was Our Home, a video series launched by filmmaker Yazeed Kamaldien in 2017 that interviewed displaced District Six residents.

The screenings and launch of the book Welcome to Mitchell’s Plain. Filming a ‘model township’ during apartheid by author Dr Ludmila Ommundsen Pessoa took place at Alliance Française du Cap, in Cape Town, on Thursday August 17, and was replicated yesterday, Tuesday August 22 at Westridge library.

Ms Lewis said she has found healing in speaking to tourists and museum visitors about the close bonds, culture, love relationships, friendships and community which were uprooted and scattered all over the Cape Flats.

“This is very emotional for me.” She said her mother had waited decades to return and that she had always wanted to know what they had done to be forcibly removed from their hometown.

“We did not know what awaited us on the Cape Flats,” she said.

Thursday’s discussion “Where does history lie?” centred on viewers’ reaction to the nationalist government’s film and District Six residents’ personal accounts in the video series.

Dr Ommundsen Pessoa said yesterday’s talk was an engagement to share Mitchell’s Plain’s “counter” history, thus paving the way for more histories with different and enlarged perspectives.

In the book she interrogates the making of the “propaganda documentary film” Mitchell’s Plain (1980), which was commissioned for worldwide distribution.

Dr Ommundsen Pessoa is the former director of the Alliance Française in Portland, Mitchell’s Plain, and is now a senior lecturer at the University of Le Havre-Normandy in France and a member of GRIC (Groupe de Recherche Identités et Cultures) (“French lecturer writes ’Plain history book”, Plainsman February 22).

Dr Ommundsen Pessoa’s research focuses on South Africa’s contemporary literature and culture.

Mr Kamaldien, a journalist and documentary filmmaker, who had put together the video series entitled This Was Our Home, formed part of the discussion in having interviewed “displaced District Six” residents.

Welcome to Mitchell’s Plain is available for free download at and This Was Our Home can be viewed via the Facebook page D6 Our Home.

Mogamat Kammie Kamedien, from Wynberg, and Jacky Poking, from Bo-kaap.
Yazeed Kamaldien, journalist and documentary filmmaker, and author Dr Ludmila Ommundsen Pessoa.