Mr Apollis Allen and family, of Klein Slangkop, Kommetjie (Interview in April 2019)

Posted on November 10, 2020 · Posted in History
Pentjie Newman of the Allen family where she loves to dive for crayfish

The Allen family settled in Kommetjie in the late 1940s. Mrs Johanna Newman (nee Allen), known to her family and friends as Pentjie, told of her family’s life in Kommetjie and forced removal to Ocean View.

Pentjie’s parents, Mr Apollis Allen and his wife Rosie, moved from Glencairn and settled in Klein Slangkop in Kommetjie. Their two sons had already left home to join the fishing industry in then South West Africa (now Namibia). Mr Allen built their zinc home amongst the milkwoods, just below a large sand dune. They established a large vegetable garden near their house.

Two daughters, Rachel and Johanna ( Pentjie) were born in this home. Pentjie was delivered by their family friend Mrs Joanna Francke, after whom she was named. Pentjie was told she was “born with the caul” (“gebore met die helm”), a rare occurrence and  believed to be a sign of good luck, which may have been true of her childhood, which she describes as very happy. She and her older sister, Rachel, enjoyed the freedom to explore their surroundings of bush and sea-shore in Kommetjie.

Their father, Mr Apollis Allen, was a fisherman. He worked with Mr van Dalen from Retreat who, with his sons, came in his bakkie to fish in Kommetjie almost every day. Mr van Dalen had several rowing boats which he left on the sand dunes under the care of Mr Allen. Pentjie and her sister helped to ensure that the boats were safe from very high tides, and they would climb to the top of the dune for a good view of the tide.

Their father went out in the fishing boats with the van Dalen men. Depending on the weather and season, they caught crayfish with nets and bait, or hottentot (seabream) with lines. Pentjie sometimes joined her father fishing for hottentot, and she remembers how proud she was once when she caught a very big fish! She and her sister also helped Mr Smit of Kommetjie catch harders. He would throw the net from his boat, and the girls would stand on the rocks and help him place the net. They would later walk around Kommetjie with harders on a string, selling them to residents and campers. The children also helped pull in the trek nets on Long beach near the river outlet.

Their mother, Mrs Rosie Allen, is well remembered for her skill of diving for crayfish at low tide and catching them with her hands. She’d put on old clothes, and get a pillow case and a sock. She’d dive amongst the rocks and feel under a rock for a crayfish. She’d then put a sock over her hand, pull out the crayfish, and pop it in the pillow slip. Pentjie and Rachel learnt from their mother how to do this, and could easily catch their daily quota of large crayfish. The crayfish did, however, come at the cost of painful bleeding hands.

Mrs Allen would send her daughters to Miss Babes Calder’s shop (at the site of the present-day Calvary church) to buy odd things the family needed. If they arrived when the shop was closed, Miss Babes would let them in through the garage to buy what they needed. Every Friday afternoon the family travelled to Kalk Bay for their weekly groceries. The little girls, who always wore shorts in Kommetjie, would put on dresses for this special outing.

As young adults, Pentjie, her sister and their boyfriends lived in the family home, while their mother, by then widowed, lived in a smaller house next door. Sometime in 1969 Mrs Rosie Allen went on a visit to her son in Luderitz. One fateful day while she was away, council workers were sent to destroy their home. Pentjie described this traumatic experience: “The house was chopped down with hammers, and the furniture and our possessions broken. We were thrown out like dogs.” Their life as part of the Kommetjie community had come to an abrupt and very painful end.

When their mother returned from Luderitz, shocked and overwhelmed by what had happened to her home, Mrs Allen moved with Rachel and her boyfriend to a one bedroomed flat in Ocean View. Enormous trauma for an elderly widow, and a big adjustment after her life in Kommetjie. 

Pentjie and her partner determinedly built a new house, this one more hidden in the milkwoods. A few weeks later the council workers were again sent to destroy their home. Courageously this young couple rebuilt their home for a second time. After their home had been destroyed for a third time, they were defeated by this inhumane system, and they moved to a one-bedroomed flat in Ocean View. A shocking change after Pentjie’s carefree childhood by the sea.

The family put in a claim in 2015 for their forced removal, and are still awaiting restitution.

We are raising funds for two mosaic benches to mark the forced removal of three families from Kommetjie during the apartheid forced removals. Find out about the fundraiser here:

Forced Removals: