The usable past and socio-environmental justice: From Lady Selborne to Ga-Rankuwa.

03 September 2013

This article presents a case study in forced removals and their ramifications from 1905 to 1977 from the perspective of socio-environmental history. It depicts environmental damages and misunderstandings suffered due to forced removals from Pretoria in a location called Lady Selborne (currently known as Suiderberg) and Ga-Rankuwa where some of the displaced were relocated. The article demonstrates that forced removals did not only result in people losing their historical lands, properties and material possessions, but they lost their inheritance – homes, history and their sense of being and connectedness. The article depicts the complex picture of the ramifications of forced removals among former inhabitants of Lady Selborne where the township was a scenic home, with fertile soils and situated closer to the city centre - where they experienced environmental justice and felt human in the process. With the forced removals and relocation in Ga-Rankuwa the former inhabitants of Lady Selborne were resettled in a place with infertile soil on the outskirts of Pretoria. The article illustrates that successive white governments (from the colonial period till the reign of the National Party under De Klerk) and many scholars have tried to downplay African environmental ethics and to dismiss them as “superstition”. This resulted in forced removals and consequently in Africans being apathetic to environmental issues in the resettlement area; Ga- Rankuwa. This impacted on the oral traditional environmental education on environmental preservation which was ignored by Africans and successive governments and this hastened the deterioration of African environmental settlements in Ga-Rankuwa. Thus, in this article it will be argued that through environmental justice that embraces the “Usable past” of African environmental ethics, environmental education and activism is possible.