More uncertainty for District Six claimants

Deputy President David Mabuza, in the middle, observes as claimants sign settlement agreements at the phase-three Hanover Street units.

One hundred and eight new homes stand ready for District Six claimants who, despite a visit to the area by Deputy President David Mabuza last week, are still none the wiser about when exactly they can move in.

And an organisation that represents District Six claimants says is was surprised by Agriculture, Land Reform and Rural Development Minister Thoko Didiza’s announcement, made during Mr Mabuza’s visit, that the completion date for 954 more restitution units has been set back by two years.

Mr Mabuza visited on Tuesday March 22 in his capacity as chairman of the inter-ministerial committee on land reform and agriculture.

“Our presence here is a continuation of our quest to restore the human dignity of all communities that were stripped off of their land rights, through colonial conquests and successive apartheid policies and laws of segregation,” he said.

He acknowledged the delays in finalising restitution in District Six aggravated by, among other things, beneficiary disagreements, claimant verification and the consolidation of huge claims with historical communities that in most cases had scattered across the country.

The Tatler asked Mr Mabuza’s spokesperson, Matshepo Seedat, when claimants could move into the 108 two-bedroom flats and terraced houses in Hanover Street – which make up phase three of District Six development – but we were referred to Department of Agriculture, Land Reform and Rural Development (DALRRD) spokesman Reggie Ngcobo who blamed the delay on a hold-up in getting occupancy certificates from the City of Cape Town (“Oldest District Six claimant dies without restitution,” Southern Suburbs Tatler, February 3).

Occupancy certificates – a legal requirement for a property to be registered in the owner’s name – could only be issued once the City’s building inspector had checked units complied with national building regulations and approved building plans, said deputy mayor Eddie Andrews, who is also mayoral committee member for spatial planning and environment. However, he added, in this case, the units had been built by the national government and because the national building regulations and Building Standards Act 103 of 1977 did not bind the state, the City was not required to approve the building plans under the national building regulations or to issue occupancy certificates, so “occupancy letters” had been issued instead.

The letters had been given to the DALRRD on Thursday March 24 and the onus was on the department to complete the restitution process, he said.

The Tatler was unable to get clarity from the City on the difference between occupancy certificates and occupancy letters and whether the latter carry any legal force.

However, Mr Andrews’s comments appear to contradict statements made last year by his predecessor, Marian Nieuwoudt, who said the City was waiting on the DALRRD to attend to deviations on the site development plan before issuing occupancy certificates.

“The Department of Agriculture, Land Reform and Rural Development is in the process of submitting an application in terms of the Municipal Planning By-law to deal with the deviations from the approved site development plan and to deal with the structures erected in the road reserve… Once these processes have been concluded and are in order, the occupancy certificates will be issued so that beneficiaries can move into their new homes,” Ms Nieuwoudt said at the time (“District Six claimants still dogged by delays,” Southern Suburbs Tatler, October 7, 2021).

Mr Ngcobo said claimants also had to sign “settlement letters” agreeing to various terms, such as not renting out their units and committing to pay municipal bills.

Some of the claimants had signed those letters during the deputy president’s visit, he said.

Shooyab Hajee said his mother, District Six claimant Moerieda Hajee, 76, from Heideveld, had been told by a Land Claims employee over the phone that she would receive the keys to her Hanover Street unit within two weeks.

“This has been a stressful time for her waiting,” he said. “She has signed her papers at the Land Claims office last year already, so it has been frustrating for her.”

Another claimant, Tubby Khan, 80, who lives in Lentegeur but is formerly of Albert Street, District Six, said he still had to sign for his new home and receive the keys.

“The department initially wanted to put me in a place that is an upward walk towards my flat. I requested a single unit closer to Hanover Street,” he said.

Jeff Alexander said his mother, Mavis Alexander, 83, was optimistic about moving into the Hanover Street units. “We received a text message last week from the Land Claims office that we must see them within two weeks to speak to them about the keys.”

Mr Alexander said it had been a long wait and he wanted to see whether national government would finally deliver restitution.

In February 2020, the DALRRD told claimants it wanted 954 more units to be built by the end of 2023 (“District Six restitution under way,” February 20), but last week, Ms Didiza said they would now likely only be built by December 2025.

Mr Ngcobo said the pandemic had set the project back. “Before we can excavate any land for development on District Six, we need heritage practitioners on site in case there is anything of heritage value found in the rubble,” he said.

District Six Working Committee (D6WC) spokeswoman Karen Breytenbach said Mr Mabuza’s visit had not revealed anything new.

“The people of District Six have been waiting too long for restitution, and they want to know that the government is truly serious this time about finalising restitution as soon as possible.”

The biggest surprise, she said, had been Minister Didiza’s announcement that the 954 units would be done by the end of 2025, which was later than they had expected.

The D6WC said that while claimants had received notification from the Land Claims office to meet with them within two weeks no definite timeline had been given as to when claimants would move in.

Phase three of the District Six development comprises 108 flats and terraced housing in Hanover Street.