The Harfield Village Association (HVA) is a very active, dedicated and involved civic association playing its part to ensure the wellbeing of residents in the area, and seeking to build and strengthen community, both in Harfield Village but also extending a friendly hand to neighbouring areas.

Harfield is indeed a small village with a big heart. Please join us, and help the HVA to expand and improve our impact.

The History of Harfield Village

The Harfield Village Association (HVA) is cognizant of the rich cultural heritage and forced removal history of Harfield Village. Through its outreach programmes and support for community based initiatives such as Rosmead Central Primary School, the Young Guiding Stars Sacred String Band Claremont and various important initiatives in Hanover Park, the HVA is constantly looking for ways to creating deeply personal community development bridges and reflect a sincere commitment to building an inclusive and integrated society.

About Harfield Village and Claremont

The following information was retrieved from the Claremont Histories website which in turn was taken from the wonderful site, South African History Online ( ). Please refer to these two websites for further information, photographs, personal stories and more. Claremont, a suburb in Cape Town, is situated north of Kenilworth, east of Bishopscourt and south of Newlands in the Western Cape Province. The name is French for ‘clear mountain’. Claremont was demarcated into two fragments; Lower and Upper Claremont. Lower Claremont was a multi-racial and religiously diverse community consisting of Coloureds, Whites, Blacks, Christians and Muslims. The area was popular because of its proximity to buses and trains which people used as transport to work. Moreover Lower Claremont comprised of independent infrastructure which contained over 40 shops and small businesses. Some of these shops had been in existence for over 60 years and were lucrative family businesses of inhabitants in the area. The community had more than ten schools including the prestigious Livingstone High School.There was also Second Avenue, a residential area in Lower Claremont which had many shops.
Eventually a number of cottages emerged in the vicinity when Harfield Road Station was built as part of the new southern suburbs line. As a result the area’s population grew gradually. By 1883 Lower Claremont was incorporated into the newly formed Liesbeeck municipality along with Upper Claremont, Newlands, Rondebosch, Wynberg andMowbray. Upper Claremont consisted of some 158 Coloured inhabitants. The majority of these people came from the Kirstenbosch and Protea Road areas. Residents here were considered more affluent than those in Lower Claremont.

Upper Claremont and Lower Claremont become an official suburb

Claremont Main Roadquickly progressed into a commercial centre, thus attracting more people to the area. In 1890 the entire Claremont area, above and below the railway line, was granted separate municipal status, and ultimately became a suburb of greater Cape Town in 1913. Music played a vital role in Claremont’s cultural and social life.

Housing in Claremont

Claremont housing was characterised by overcrowded one room houses with poorly fabricated clay bricks. Claremont was perceived by residents as a slum area. In addition, they had no electricity supply or toilets. During the heavy winter rainfalls, things worsened. Given the inadequate material used for their houses, they were easily destroyed by water. Landlords were reluctant to make any improvements.

Claremont proclaimed a ‘White area’

In 1953 the Apartheid government began to express concerns about the squatting of African families in Cape Town suburbs. Claremont was identified as a ‘black spot’ following a visit to the area by a government official who regarded Claremont apt to become a White area. He allegedly indicated that the government would rid Claremont of Black and Coloured inhabitants. A considerable number of African families lived in and around an area known as Princess Square. They became the first group in Lower Claremont to fall victim to Apartheid laws instituted by the government – one of these laws was the Black Land Act of June 1913. The Act prohibited Blacks from owning or renting land outside designated reserves. In addition the Natives (Black) Urban Areas Act equally regulated African occupation in urban areas. It gave local authorities the power to demarcate and establish African locations on the outskirts of White urban and industrial areas, and to determine access to, and the funding of, these areas.
In November 1969 Lower Claremont was declared a White area. A large number of people from the community was affected. The evictees consisted of homeowners, as well as tenants from White and Indian landlords or the City Council. In addition, Indian property owners were forced to sell to Whites because they could not own property in a ‘White area’. White owners promptly renovated the properties and sold them at a profit. Despite this, rent was exorbitantly high for these renovated properties forcing the City Council to sell to property developers. As a result many houses were destroyed and replaced with blocks of flats.

Evictions commence in the entire Claremont

Claremont was declared a White area and renamed Harfield Village. The Group Areas Act and forced removals destabilised Claremont, due to the escalating of crime in the 1970s and 1980s when the removals took place. A large part of the Coloured community of Claremont was segregated and relocated to new homes all over the Cape Flats area – Manenburg, Havoner Park, Mitchells Plain, Lavender Hill, Grassy Park , Park Town and even as far as Atlantis on the West Coast. Some Claremont residents moved to Sherwood Park in Philippi. Estate agents bullied many home owners into selling their properties. The home owners acceded because they felt intimidated. According to a former resident in Claremont, officials from the Group Areas Board came and valued people’s houses – for example a three bedroom house could be valued at R3 000. Home owners were made cash offers a little above the board valuation. Once a house was sold a time limit would be set on moving. A seller was penalized 25% on any profit made above the valuation price for every year that he or she stayed on. The elderly were particularly vulnerable. They felt degraded and dehumanised because they were pensioners and too old to start again. Home owners were the first to move out and Whites gradually started to take their place. Back yard tenants were issued with eviction notices by the Department of Community Development officials. Only registered tenants were permitted to stay.

Residents submit their claims

In the years following the removals Claremont residents finally triumphed over the evictions. In September 1999, a few of the first land and property claims were settled. Many, however, remain in wait – decades later – for responses to their claims. Some of them still attend religious services at the churches and mosques in Claremont.

The Continued Community

Despite being evicted over 45 years ago, some of the ex-residents still attend religious services at the churches and mosques in Claremont. Most notably, the Harvey Road Mosque is widely attended by ex-residents, while St Matthews Anglican church remains predominantly attended by the suburb’s evicted Coloured residents. Some of the patrons have expressed concern that the church’s future remains unstable, as many of the older patrons are passing on, with fewer and fewer of their descendants attending services. Problematically, this also means that the community of Harfield or Lower Claremont as represented by the church and mosque attendees will be lost forever. Reunions and efforts to set up a museum have been initiated by a number of ex-residents and their children.

The Impossible Return

Directed and produced by Dr Siona O’Connell, An Impossible Return (2015) looks at the aftermath left in the wake of apartheid-era forced removals in Cape Town with a focus on Harfield Village. For further information or to obtain a copy of the book please contact Professor O’Connell by email Siona O’Connell

The Impossible Return documentary on YouTube, hosted by the University of Pretoria:

Oral Histories

Other Histories