Stepping foot onto the lush soil in Bishopscourt, 86 families stood in awe as the realisation that they had come home sank in.
They spoke of the memories they had of living on the land, previously known as Protea Village, before they were forcefully removed in the 1960s under apartheid’s Group Areas Act.
After a 21-year-long battle to claim back their land, the descendants of the original claimants finally received 8.5ha of the land worth about R100 million.
The Protea Village Communal Property Association (CPA), representing the families, signed a development agreement with Bethel Property on Saturday November 25 to rebuild their lives on the property.
The City will provide the families with bulk services on the land and they will develop it at their own cost.
All the original Protea Village claimants are dead, but their families, who are spread across the Cape Flats, are excited to be moving back.
“Saying that my parents would be elated is an understatement. They would’ve jumped,” said CPA chairman Cedric van Dieman. “I was 16 years old when we were evicted, and life has changed since. Many say going back will never be the same, but I don’t expect it to be the same. Its been 51 years on.
“We are aware that we’re not going to move in tomorrow; there is lots of work to be done. Land we don’t use will be transferred back to the City to be used as public open space. The reality is that we will only move in, in the next four or five years.”
Mr Van Dieman said two plots on either side of Kirstenbosch Drive would be developed and a portion of the land would be leased to a private school to fund the development of the residents’ properties.
Mayor Patricia de Lille said she was honoured to hand the land over to the rightful owners.
“While this is a day of celebration, in all honestly, it is really sad for me to know that the families in front of me today have waited so many years to return to their land.”
Ms De Lille said that in coming months, the City would finalise the transfer of land in Plumstead, Crawford and Heideveld to claimants.
“We will continue doing all we can to ensure that the rightful owners are returned to their land that was so cruelly taken away from them,” she said.