Historic significance of Langa Pass Office to be protected by Heritage status
The social and historical significance of the Langa Pass Office will be protected for future generations after the site was declared as a Provincial Heritage Site on Friday, 26 February 2021.
During apartheid, black people were subjected to laws which severely restricted their movement and required them to carry a form of internal passport (in addition to a range of other oppressive laws). The passports were colloquially referred to as a pass or “dompass”, and being caught without one lead to either imprisonment or a fine.
The Langa Pass Office, like many others around South Africa, was the site where these passes would be issued and where pass law transgressors would be detained, prosecuted and sentenced.
Justice Albie Sachs, a former anti-apartheid activist, advocate and Constitutional Court judge, visited the site on many occasions to defend fellow activists and others who had been arrested. Justice Sachs spoke at the unveiling and welcomed the building’s Heritage status.
“Thank you to Heritage Western Cape. (This) is the Western Cape not looking at the matter in a party political sense. Our heritage is not party political. It belongs to the people. Many people were in the struggle in different way and contributed in different ways,” he said.
“This is a monument for the people, for all the people who struggled, for all the people who wrote our constitution. And for all the people who are struggling today to take the struggle forward to the next phased where we don’t have the spatial apartheid, we don’t have the inequalities, we don’t have the covert systems of privilege and entitlement that are still so strong in our country.”
Heritage status was conferred on the site by Heritage Western Cape (HWC), one of the public entities of the Department of Cultural Affairs and Sport.
The Langa Pass Office has been a museum, since 2011. The status means that the building will be afforded all of the protection of the National Heritage Resources Act.
Minister of Cultural Affairs and Sport, Anroux Marais, delivered the key note speech at Friday’s unveiling. “Much of our tumultuous past should be acknowledged and engaged on as lessons of history, never to be repeated again, so together we can heal in a spirit of reconciliation as one nation, united in our diversity,” Minister Marais said.
“Undoubtedly, the Langa Pass Office and Court possess high historical significance. The history of the site holds importance in the community, in the pattern of South Africa's history and has strong and special association with the life or work of a person, group or organisation of importance. The Langa Pass Office is also significant in its association and role with the dompas system in the history of South Africa. Evidently, The Langa Pass Office therefore bears significance in the memory of South Africa’s history and acknowledges its role and contribution to our democratic society as experienced today.”