The place of the past in the present: A discourse analysis of the threatened eviction of Cape Town’s De Waal Drive residents
Eidelman, Tessa Ann
Forced removals of black, colored, and Indian people from urban areas is ubiquitous in South Africa’s history. In Cape Town, displacements, evictions, and exclusions from the affluent, historically white city center continue today as the city struggles to be both inclusive and a “world city.” Current urban studies scholarship largely theorizes processes of exclusionary urban and housing development by attending to the process of neoliberalization. While South Africa’s urban and economic policies are increasingly neoliberal, the government’s imperative to provide public housing and the national aspiration to dismantle the legacy of apartheid are additional logics worth considering. In this study, I suggest that current analyses of housing issues in global South cities may be extended beyond the neoliberal critique using discourse analysis. I thus examine news media concerning the threatened eviction of low-income residents from the government-owned De Waal Drive flats in Cape Town’s city bowl. The flats are located in District Six – a site of an infamous mass forced removal during apartheid that was experienced by some current residents of the flats. I explore how memories and histories of racial/spatial violence feature in how meaning is made of the De Waal Drive situation. While activist media draws on apartheid history to make the situation visible as a social justice issue, the government silences this history as they deploy a capitalist economic discourse to justify their actions. The analysis considers the implications of the suppression of history and memory in news media for the realization or more just urban futures.