Chatsworth is a sprawling township situated in the south of Durban. It is primarily inhabited by people that were relocated during the apartheid regime. It is an Indian township whose culture is central to Durban’s identity and a direct result of Group Areas Act.
1 Group Areas Act
2 Buffer Between White Residential Areas and African Township
3 Deep Sense of Community
4 Temple of Understanding
5 The Poors of Chatsworth
Group Areas Act
In the 1940s, The Pegging Acts and the Ghetto Act were passed. These acts gave the government the right to remove and destroy shacks and small self-made shelters, with the intention of improving sanitary conditions. This led to the Group Areas Act of June 1950, which designated certain areas for Whites and other areas for Indians, Coloureds and Africans. Indians were removed from areas such as Mayville, Cato Manor, the Clairwood and Magazine Barracks, and the Bluff, and placed in areas like Riverside and Prospect Hall and at Duikerfontein and Sea Cow Lake.
Buffer Between White Residential Areas and African Township
During the later 1940s and early 1950s, there were advertisements in the papers of an exclusively Indian suburb, Umhlathuzana. Later Silverglenn and Red Hill were also developed. Then in the early 1960s Chatsworth was planned, opening in 1964 and consisting of eleven neighbourhood units. Modern day Chatsworth has 64 suburbs that fall within its region. Chatsworth was deliberately built to act as buffer between white residential areas and the large African township of Umlazi.
Deep Sense of Community
Despite the obstacles it faced and continues to face, Chatsworth exudes a deep sense of community and a rich tradition of struggle, that continues in the face of the challenges posed by the new South Africa.
Temple of Understanding
As a consequence of its history, Chatsworth is still a predominantly Indian population growing rigidly, with many economic interests in favour of Indians. It boasts many of the Indian cultures that were acquired from their ancestors from India, and holds the Temple of Understanding – South Africa’s most spectacular Hindu temple. Many Indians from Tamil and Telugu backgrounds are present. Such Indian languages are still spoken at home in many instances, with classes set up to aid in their development.
This area is now a fully fledged suburb of Durban and boasts industrial development with strong infrastructure and has contributed to the growing intellectual capital and business environment of Durban, while at the same time housing evictions of “unwanted” residents and the disconnection of water and electrical utilities plagues those who cannot afford them due to the high unemployment rate.
The Poors of Chatsworth
In around the year 2000 the flats in two areas of Chatsworth, Bayview and Westcliffe, were briefly the centre of a small social movement known as “The Poors,” because the developing infrastructure had missed the poorest of the population, and the loss of manufacturing jobs due to the economic liberalisation program of self-imposed Structural Adjustment Policies known as GEAR, had increased the economic problems of Chatsworth’s poorest residents. However in recent local government elections residents from these areas have supported the narrow ethnic politics of Amichand Rajbansi’s Minority Front Party.