What’s in a name?
Wag ‘n Bietjie, Umphafa, Buffalo Thorn or ziziphus mucronate is the thorn bush we know. If caught by its zig-zag thorns you are compelled to take a step back before you can carry on. Life is often like this too. If you don’t reflect on that which pained you or hurt others, it is reflection that helps you go forward.
In the Southern Peninsula like elsewhere in our land people of colour were once removed from areas the Government decreed to be white. This happened more than fifty years ago. It happened in the name of apartheid. It dumped people in distant places. They lost homes, jobs and their part in communities built over hundreds of years.
Recently, on Jubilee Square in Simon’s Town and in Kommetjie, benches that are festooned with mosaics, were inaugurated that invoke the Wag ‘n Bietjie together with images of the place(s) that families were thrown out of. The idea has caught on – to replicate such memorialisation, wherever expulsions took place.
These initiatives are organised by civic-minded folk keen to help heal their wounds as those once discriminated against and those who feel that they or their parents should have done more to oppose those evictions.
People from Ocean View and Gugulethu gather once a year, for the past half century, in Simon’s Town to remember their loss. The benches have restored a small part of their identity. Others, keen to show their support for this symbolic piece of restitution have equally embraced the concept and its replication elsewhere.