Looking back at the establishment of Eden Park

The small sink building serving was a school and a church. A heritage site has since been declared around this building and surrounding areas.

ALBERTON – The history of our Eden Park, Alberton residents can be traced back to more than 100 years. It was at Rietvlei, now known as the Rietvlei Zoo Farm, where a letter attached to the Eikenhof SAP docket No. 109, 5/336/3 on November 19, 1925 mentioned a population recording of “151 Europeans and 125 Natives (including Hottentots)” residents on the Rietvlei Farm.

At the time the only areas that provided education to “Non-European” communities in the Alberton area, was the churches in the Jacksonsdrift, Eikenhof area. Residents and pupils within the then Alberton, Rietvlei Farm areas could attend school and church. Those children and people walked long distances of up to nine kilometers daily to get to the old Catholic, Anglican and London Missionary Society (LMS) building (see picture) to attend school. Some Hottentot (term used for a “so called” Coloured up to the 1950s) families immigrated and settled around the church-school building, although large numbers still had to walk far to hear the Word of God on a Sunday.

This historic church-school building accommodated members from various communities, including Rietvlei and also known as Pompies Cross at the time. Pompies Cross is where the current junction of Kliprivier and Swartkoppies Drive is.

The farms in the Pompies Cross area was also home to many of our known Eden Park families like the Smith, Cook, Windvoël, Coetzee and Kraukamps in the early to late 1900’s. A lot of Hottentot families walked from other areas such as Alwynspoort, Vanwyksrust, Walkerville and even as far as Grasmere to the old zinc church-school building that was completed in 1912 and is still operating as a church only today.

102-year-old building a heritage site

The erstwhile Jacksonsdrift community and those from other communities, where they immigrated to (including those from Alberton), that had contact with this historic 102-year-old building, have successfully managed to have the old church-school structure listed as a Heritage Site.

The reason for this initiative was because of the heritage significance it has for them and the bearing on their history. Soon projects aimed at restitution will be conducted around the church-school area.

There is also the intension to revive the educational element. The erstwhile Jacksondrift KhoiSan community will establish a school and cultural village that will form part of their cultural revitalisation programme. A centre that will concentrate on the development and tutoring of the Nama and Boesman languages and cultures will form part of this initiative.

Our forefathers was harshly reprimanded not to speak those languages (Nama and Boesman), because it was called a “skelm taal” by the then law enforcement agents. There are sufficient records held in the archives of London Missionary Society Church and the Eikenhof SAP files that reflect our KhoiSan indigenous status and presence we had in the Johannesburg and Alberton areas from the 1800’s to the present. A heritage investigation study conducted in 2006 gives more evidence of the KhoiSan in this area.

Fighting the Anglo-Boer War

It was also at Eikenhof where our forefathers supported the Boeremagte in the Anglo-Boer War of 1899-1902 that took place around the very church-school building. I remember my grandfather mentioning how they were assigned to blow up all pylons next to the Klipriver from Jacksonsdrift, past the Eye Of Africa (where a few years ago our ancestral rock art was found), right through to the Suikerbosrand area.

Our ancestral graves are spread across Ekurhuleni and Johannesburg Metropolitan areas as a result of systems of Colonialism, Apartheid, and sad to say, that even within the democratic dispensation, our ancestral graves were removed without proper notice and dumped in Sharpville. We would like to extend our sincere gratitude to Scaw Metals in Wadeville, who respected the rights of our ancestry by not dismantling the unmarked grave sites which lie next to the ash heaps next to the N3 highway.

Moved with force

In a letter dated November 1, 1949 (NTS 51/313S(6), p. 47-48), written by Inspector B.J.E. Badenhorst as “Officer in Charge: Southern Area of the South African Police” and addressed to “The District Commandant, South African Police, Johannesburg”, it was estimated that there were roughly “…from 600 to 700 natives, Coloured, and Hottentot families on the farms around Eikenhof adjoining the Municipal area of Johannesburg.” It is also stated that “…some farmers have large Coloured and Hottentot families on their farms and the Native Laws are not applicable to them.”

This great influx by the non-European population led to theft and problems on many farms, giving rise to forced removals of our ancestors. Families like the Danster, Markus, Goliath, Mathysen, De Bruin, Damakwa, and many other was forcefully removed from farms in the Alberton, Eikenhoff and Roodekop areas, where they eventually ended up at Dugathole (Germiston) in the early 1960’s.

The need for industrial development in places like Dikathole in Germiston, Dindela in Edenvale, and Palmietfontein, Dimapeng (now known as Alrode and Alrode South), where the final forced removals of non-European communities took place, gave rise to Eden Park in 1976. This is where most of our families have now eventually settled.

Supplied by: Erstcombus Projects

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