District Six: Another delay

District Six claimants picket in front of the Western Cape High Court.

The Minister of Rural Development and Land Reform, Maite Nkoana-Mashabane, says she needs another three months to come up with a clear, holistic plan to return District Six claimants to their home.

Judge Jody Kollapen had ordered the Department of Rural Development and Land Reform to come before the High Court in February this year, with a clear plan for those who have been eagerly waiting to return to the area.

Ms Nkoana-Mashabane finally appeared in the Western Cape High Court on Friday May 17, after an order was granted on April 18 to summon the minister to appear in court a month later.

More than 50 District Six claimants were at the court to hear testimony from the minister.

Ms Nkoana-Mashabane was in the witness seat for five hours where she needed to explain why she should not be held in contempt for not following through with a court order that was handed down to her department last November that they must come back to court in February this year, to provide a clear and holistic plan for the redevelopment of District Six.

The minister told Acting Judge Thembeka Ngcukaitobi that she regretted that the court order handed out last year was not fully complied with. In an answering affidavit that she read in court she cites financial constraints as the reason her department struggled to assist in the redevelopment of District Six.

In the minister’s answering affidavit it says it will cost R2.4 billion to provide restitution for the remaining 1 000 claimants and a total of
R11 billion for the redevelopment of the whole of District Six.

The minister told the court that her department will only be able to contribute R351 million to the restitution of District Six.

Ms Nkoana-Mashabane says it’s going to take all spheres of government plus help from private investors in order to redevelop District Six.

Attorney for the claimants, Advocate Geoff Budlender has pushed the minister to admit that she did not comply with the court order set out by Judge Jody Kollapen last November in the High Court.

The minister admitted that she did not comply with the order. Advocate Budlender has asked whether the minister even had a clear holistic plan for the redevelopment of District Six.

The minister responded that it was not possible to redevelop District Six on their own.

Acting Judge Ngcukaitobi told the minister that the claimants who came to court on Friday had no clue as to what the future plans of District Six would be.

Acting Judge Ngcukaitobi even told her that former president Jacob Zuma had proposed a R700 million funding towards District Six in 2012, so that all claimants could be home by 2014, though nothing had transpired from it. The minister could not respond to this.

Nicki van’t Riet, director of Norton Rose Fulbright, the legal firm representing the District Six claimants, says the minister has accepted that she is responsible for implementing the plan and that she did not comply with the court order. “She conceded that she did not listen to the claimants of District Six as much as she should have and she conceded that not enough progress was made for the District Six claimants.”

Ms Van’t Riet says the minister deflected responsibility for not complying, blaming her previous legal team, her officials, a lack of funds and only becoming the minister in February 2018.

Chairman of the District Six Working Committee (D6WC), Shahied Ajam, told claimants that he is hoping to find closure for them.

“The people of District Six need to heal and the only way they’ re going to heal is when this government fully realises the damage that was done for over 20 years to the claimants; we expected to be treated like first class citizens as dictated to by the constitution,” he said.

Many of the claimants who attended court had mixed feelings about what transpired during the day.

Nazeem Sydow, 69, from Walmer Estate, feels that the Minister of Rural Development and Land Reform has not been paying serious attention to what the court is saying and she should be held in contempt of court.

Asa Sebonka, 57, from Mitchell’s Plain, says the government should be fair and square with the people. “Let us come back to District Six,” she says.

Rose Arries, 76, from Kuils River, says this has been a long process as she is waiting for more than 20 years for restitution.

Minister Nkoana-Mashabane says even if there is a change of minister for the Department of Rural Development and Land Reform, a plan of action for the redevelopment of District Six will still be provided to the court.

Acting Judge Ngcukaitobi has not made a ruling on whether the minister should be held in contempt for not providing plans for the area and a date for the ruling it is yet to be announced.