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The East Bank locations

The Elite Location
1882 to 1890

Keith Tankard
Updated: 14 October 2009
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The East London Town Council was aware that a class of wealthier and better educated Black person lived in the townships and several councillors wished to aid that group as much as possible.

In 1882, a committee was established and recommended that a new location be created, with residents guaranteed a 14 year lease period.

Councillor Darley-Hartley explained that the idea had been generally accepted "for some time" within the Council. Councillor Walker begged his colleagues to take "a broad view" of putting facilities in the way of those people who required the means "of raising themselves".

There were, he said, a number of such people who wished to better themselves and they would be an example to the others. The more respectable complained of "contamination" and, although it was legally possible for them to live in the town, it was in practice very difficult to do so.

A plan to create some form of class distinction within the locations would therefore "answer well". He had heard from "reliable authority" that there was prostitution "and all kinds of evil going on", which meant that honest people "could not maintain their respectability".

Councillors Vincent and Gately, however, attempted to block the proposal.

Vincent wanted to see the simple creation of location for the elite Black people rather than give them prolonged control of the land, believing that 14 years of tenure would only bring about "a worse state of affairs".

Gately agreed. Although the interests of the Black person should not be neglected, he nevertheless believed that leasing the land "for so long a period" was a bad idea. Indeed, he did not think that there "would ever be a disposition to dispossess deserving natives".

The original proposition, however, was accepted by a majority of just one vote and the elite location became a reality.

Each applicant for residence had to provide the Council with evidence of good character and behaviour, and of his financial state. He also had to submit "a general idea" of the style and cost of his proposed building, and his plan had to be supported by two other inhabitants.

By the end of the 1880s, it would have seemed that the Black community on the East Bank was well settled.

The Mfengu in the Wesleyan Location were contented. The Xhosa community was putting down roots in Newsam's Town. The residents of the elite location had been given 14 year rights to the land on which they were settled.

And yet, by 1888, the Town Council was drawing up new plans to scrap all three villages in favour of a unified location further from the town. Indeed, by 1890, the East Bank Location had become a reality.

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