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9 - Politics, Community Displacement and Planning: Cato Manor - Past, Present, Future

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  24 September 2020

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Summary

Cato Manor was once a melting pot of Indian and African cultures, a vibrant makeshift community of 100,000 people who wrote their own rules and survived and thrived for half a century in the shadow of the city that excluded them … in the darkest days of apartheid it was tom down, to enforce racial segregation and open up a prime piece of real estate for white occupation. This never happened. Fragments of the former communities remained, a new wave of settlers moved in and Cato Manor remained largely undeveloped and under-utilised for 25 years. (Cato Manor Development Association 1994: 1)

In South Africa politics played a key role in settlement evolution and community displacement at the macro-(bantustans) and micro-(group areas) levels. A dominant theme in the history of black communities in South African cities was their struggle to construct and ‘defend illegal space’. A central focus of apartheid state policy was to annihilate such communities and to ‘quarantine them in localities selected by the state where they could be more effectively regimented and controlled’ (Bonner and Lodge 1989: 1).

This chapter examines the changing fortunes of one such urban settlement from the pre-apartheid, apartheid and post-apartheid phases. The focus is on the Cato Manor settlement in Durban. Cato Manor is an evocative name in the province of Natal and has powerful connotations with the history of the dispossessed in South Africa. The process of urban dispossession and contestation in Cato Manor has often been compared with the destruction of Sophiatown in Johannesburg (Lodge 1983) and the razing of District Six in Cape Town (Hart 1988).

Cato Manor has been referred to as a ‘complexity in place’ - ‘one of those places about which, and around which, controversy has always appeared to rage’ (Butler-Adam and Venter 1984: 1). Furthermore, the ‘complexity of Cato Manor is not static. It reflects the interwoven processes of society as it has operated in the past, and is a complexity sustained and created afresh out of present processes’ (67).

This chapter is divided into five sections. The first section traces the historical evolution of settlement in Cato Manor.

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Publisher: Edinburgh University Press
Print publication year: 2020

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