Land restitution

Shahied Ajam, chairperson, D6 Working Committee

Following our successful gala lunch on Saturday February 20 for more than 500 senior citizens – and in keeping with the spirit of Ubuntu, reconciliation, transformation and social justice – the D6 Working Committee (D6WC) is calling on all its 3 000 members across the Cape Flats, other restitution communities and civic organisations, to attend a mass public meeting at the Blackpool Sports Complex in Shelly Road, Salt River, on Saturday April 16, from 10am to 1pm. One of the more significant lessons of our history is surely that the promise of restitution is a fine device for mobilising grief and anger and longing and ambition, but a far from-sturdy foundation on which to build a better life for all; at significant scale.

The 2013 centenary of the Natives Land Act provided a focal point for the state to address continuing land injustices, but public speeches and commem-orative events reflected an absence of serious engagement with the actual legacy of the act.

In 2014 when the Restitution of Land Rights Amendment Act had been signed into law, Rural Development and Land Reform (DRDLR) Minister Gugile Nkwinti stressed its transformational intent: “Given our country’s sad history of land dispossession, the Restitution of Land Rights programme is a necessary invention for redress, reconciliation and nation building, which is in line with the National Development Plan (NDP)’s goal towards the elimination of poverty and reduction of inequality by 2030”.

The agenda will thus focus around four important issues:

* Returning to the land from which you were forcibly removed and evicted (like District Six). In this regard Chapter 25 (5) of the SA Constitution clearly demonstrates that “… The state must take reasonable legislative steps and other measures, within its available resources, to foster conditions which enable citizens to gain access to land on an equitable basis…” and (7) “… A person or community dispossessed of property after 19 June 1913 as result of past racially discriminatory laws or practices is entitled, to the extent provided by an Act of Parliament, either to restitution of that property or to equitable redress.”

Thus, insofar as the restitution programme in District Six is concerned, it is indeed encouraging to see that at last, the third phase housing project in District Six commenced in December 2015 for the approximately 1 000 restitution beneficiaries, who were verified and validated between 1995 and 1998. The committee is extremely hopeful that those claimants who registered for restitution as from July 2014 will also benefit from the development once they have been verified and validated.

* Should expropria-tion not be considered then suitable alternate land should be sought for restitution purposes.

This land needs to be within the city periphery towards the southern corridor (not in the Cape Flats areas). Spatial and racial segregation is still very much prevalent in Cape Town. The deplorable thinking of apartheid spatial planning continues to pervade the city landscape. After 20 years of democracy Cape Town remains stuck with perpetual apartheid-style development for the historically disadvan-taged communities on the fringes of the city in places like Pelican Park, Khayelitsha, etc.

* Negotiating dignified and equitable compensation packages (for those who do not wish to return – or wanting alternate land).

Many urban restitu-tion claimants of District Six had between 1995 and 1998 opted to settle for a measly R17 000 (tenants) and R44 000 (land owners) at a time when restitution was relatively unknown in this country; let alone District Six and that in itself was an undignified process.

* Regarding the latest decision by the City of Cape Town to close the doors of the Good Hope Centre to the public and lease it to a television company (Cape Argus, Friday April 1). In relation to this issue, the City of Cape Town, at a full council meeting on Thursday March 31, voted overwhelmingly to shut the doors of the centre to the public, despite fierce opposition from all other political parties.

The D6WC together with its coalition partners SACTWU (South African Clothing and Textile Workers Union), Bo-Kaap Civic Association and the Cape Malay Choir Board in a desperate bid to save this iconic centre, are launching an applica-tion to court opposing this move because the City followed a ‘narrow’ consultative process with selected stakeholders only, and not with the entire “affected parties”.

The Good Hope Centre was erected in 1976 at the height of the apartheid era and forms an integral part of the historical landscape of District Six – in as much as it is regarded as part of the people’s heritage.

For the community of District Six, the centre symbolises the last bastion of hope that one day they will return to their beloved city and reclaim what is rightfully theirs.

The District Six community and its business partners intend to take ownership of the Good Hope Centre during the restitution process, with a view to initiating innovative proposals to position this space as a viable social and economic asset. The barren landscape which has virtually been left untouched for many years (save for the invasion of Cape Peninsula University of Technology which owns more than 50% of the land) is a painful scar in the minds and hearts of the people and a stark reminder of forced removals and eviction during the 60s and 70s.

The sooner this empty landscape can be filled with children’s laughter again, the sooner the healing will become a reality.

* This letter has been shortened.