Cape Town is South Africa’s mother city. It is the home to Table Mountain and beautiful beaches, among other interesting things. It is also in this city where we find some historically notable places and as well as being home to many of South Africa’s fallen heroes. Of all the places, Community House is the most notable place to visit in Western Cape.
This article is written by Youth Reporter Uthman Kaisi, who participated in YGAP 2022.
Community house is a historic site of living heritage. It is situated in Salt River Street, Cape Town, South Africa. It has always been known as a site of activism from the mid 1980’s and until now has been shaping the social political landscape of its extended communities. This is the place where you will find the Trade Union library which is in the community history museum. The building at the community house occupies NGO’s, trade unions and also provides affordable hall space to hire in Cape Town (Ashly Kriel hall).
I visited this place for Youth Globalization Awareness Programme(YGAP) which too place from 16th October to 29th October 2022. I was there presenting StreetNet International (SNI) and Malawi Union for the Informal Sector (MUFIS) This programme hosted by International Federation of Workers’ Education Associations (IFWEA) which is also there in the Community Houses. While there, I learned about different experiences and way of living for people from different countries since we were many youths from different countries around the world.
The Community House currently hosts 24 organisations that focus on labour research, gender education, advocacy, HIV/AIDS, environmental issues, youth development, media production and union organisation. However the Community House has history written across all its walls. The walls of the great community house are full of artworks that depict the history of those heroes who fell while fighting for freedom and against labour unions during the apartheid.
The first artwork to strike ones attentionat the Community House is the great artwork of Iman Abdullah Haroon,a Muslim cleric who was killed in police detention during the apartheid.
WHO WAS IMAM HAROON? – He was born on 8th February 1924 in Newlands- Claremont, Cape Town, Cape Province in South Africa. He died on 27 September 1969 in Cape Province, Cape Town and left behind 3 children. Imam was detained for 122 days from 28 May 1969 to 27 September 1969. His death was caused by torture. On 9 September 2010 his grave was declared a provincial heritage site in honour of his memory and contribution to the struggle for freedom and democracy..
As soon as you enter the building, you will see an entrance to the Ashley Kriel Hall named after another fallen hero, Ashley Kriel who was killed by the police during the apartheid. His name wasn’t only given to this hall, but also to The Institute for Justice and Reconciliation and University of Western Cape created the annual Ashley Kriel Memorial Youth Lecture.
WHO WAS ASHLEY KRIEL? He was born on 17 October 1966 and died on 9 July 1987 (20 years) in Athlone, Cape town. He was known for Anti-apartheid activism and died after being shot by the Police. Ashley was the youngest Anti-apartheid activist.
Today thousands of people find information aboutthe organisation s that are currently or previously occupying at the community house
- Congress of south African trade unions
- Human rights media centre
- My vote counts
- International labour research and information group
- Workers international vanguard league
- Open secrets
- International Federation of Workers’Education Association (IFWEA)
- Labour research service
- Institute for African alternatives
- South African domestic service and allied workers union
- South African communist party
A striking fact about fact community houses is that they can be educative but also entertaining. However everyone who visits the place has a different opinion according to how they experienced the place.
Beyond the main description of the community house, every person who has visited the venue comes up with his or herdefinition of the experience. Some of the youths who experienced the community house described gave their own perspective.
“This is a place of historical resistance and a place to build leadership, not necessarily a place to feel free and creative but a place to find and carry out a mission”, says Sarah Yasin Almehri of Sweden, a fellow YGAP participant.
“The community house is a shrine of the labour movement because when you visit you can feel the history of the labour movement evident in every corner of the venue. aloing with the struggles and information of what happened through the whole transition from the point when apartheid was rife up to the point when the general government was elected in South Africa. So the community house embodies all the struggles of the unions, as well as the place where theyrcame together to share ideas and motivate each other.” Stated Dennis Maluwa of Zimbabwe.
“It’s a cultural and activity center with enormous amount of historical liberal and struggling messages….. I also thought of it as a lively yet calm place where I felt free enough to roam around and discover by myself. I loved the people whom we met there, and supposedly who worked there because for me they represented the bigger community”. SULAIMA RAMADAN(Palestine)
“Community house is a good place to study. A lot of history to see and learn. Safe and versatile”, adds Miia Kelsey of Finland. “Community house is a place where everyone can feel safe, important and be heard. The sense of community is strong and the place feels like home as soon as you enter. The community house is really colourful and you can find a lot of historical stories there”, agrees Nea Ikonen, also from Finland.
Saliem Patel, from South Africa, explained that the Community House is “a place for progressive forces to connect, share experiences and build solidarity”.
“That’s a beautiful place to gather for the important issues and collaborations. You can almost feel the history is the walls, that is the discussions, the gatherings, the speeches the decisions, that have been held in this historic place” says Camilla Östergen from Sweden. Jonh Norberg adds that the community house seems to be full of “opportunities and possibilities, as it allowed people in the past to gather and share their thoughts about society in a time when it wasn’t easy to do so, and It is still to this date. It allowed me to share my experience and to learn about others’ experiences. It allowed people to grow closer around a common cause and it allowed people to become stronger together”.
I’ve learnt many things which is helpful for me and also the organizations I was presenting. I’ve learnt about solidarity and indeed this is the place to build solidarity as said by Saliem. This is the place which the word “Solidarity Forever” is being said now and encouraged now and then. We had to practice team building exercises, and getting to know the power of national identity. In addition to that we have acknowledged that there is power to people as we used to say “Amandla Nlawethu” every time we meet, meaning power to the people.
The visit was very educative as we took different skills and ideas that we will be using in leadership, problem solving and building solidarity among others in our different organizations.
Overall, the community house is a place that you must visit and experience in order to feel the good vibe , the resources and of course the importance of being at this place. This place as described by many, as the place that sharpens one’s mind and deeply explains more issues than expected without you asking a single question.