‘State failed in its duty to provide restitution to D6 claimants’

District Six.

The Land Claims Court in Randburg, Gauteng, has ruled that the state has failed in its duty to provide restitution for the 1998 District Six claimants.

Last Wednesday, March 20, Judge Jody Kollapen granted the claimants a declaratory order and structural relief, which stipulates that the main respondents, the Department of Rural Development and Land Reform, Commission on Restitution of Land rights and the South African Government must fulfil their constitutional duties of providing restitution.

Judge Kollapen said in the Land Claims case that the main respondents failed in the discharge of that duty. “The failure lies in the non-delivery of homes to successful claimants some 20 years after claims were submitted, their failure lies in the reality that even 20 years later there is no plan and no timeline for the adoption of such a plan,” said Judge Kollapen.

This is the second time since November last year that the judge ruled in favour of the District Six claimants

On November 26, The Western Cape High Court ordered the Department of Rural Development and Land Reform to provide a plan for the redevelopment of 42 hectares of District Six (“Victory for District Six claimants,” Tatler, November 29).

The Department of Rural Development and Land Reform was then ordered by the court to return on February 26 with a holistic plan of how they would redevelop District Six.

The Department of Rural Development and Land Reform presented the report, titled Towards an Implementation Framework for District Six, which states that it could take between 10 and 20 years to completely redevelop District Six, which the District Six Working Committee (D6WC) rejects (“Groups compile District Six draft report,” Southern Suburbs Tatler, March 7)

D6WC chairperson, Shahied Ajam said: “Justice prevails at last. Judge Jody Kollapen granted the relief which we asked for in our court papers on November 26, 2018; that being the declaratory order and structural interdict,” he said.

Mr Ajam described this as a “gift” handed to them one day before Human Rights Day last Thursday.

Mr Ajam said government was currently working on Phase 3, which is supposed to be completed by 2020.

It is located between Russel Road and Vogelgezang Street off Keizersgracht Street and will house 108 claimants. “How long are the other 800 claimants going to wait?” asked Mr Ajam.

The attorney for the Department of Rural Development and Land Reform, Shaun Ronsenberg stated in the Legal Claims document that it still had a restitutional obligation for claimants who were without a house and they acknowledged that only 139 residential units had been completed though they had been committed since 2002 to working closely with the claimants.

They blamed the slow progress on the following factors:

Differences among the claimants and the creation of break-away groups and questions about representatives.

On going changes in the needs and desires of the claimant community with regard to the proposed development of District Six resulting in uncertainty of finalising development plans.

That claimants were advised before the launch of their application that there were no time-frames or programme for the completion of the project.

Judge Kollapen said in the declaratory order there was a failure by the state to provide restitution to District Six claimants who lodged valid claims by December 31,1998. “It’s a breach of the
obligations of those respondents in terms of the constitution,” he said.

Judge Kollapen ordered the state to pay the costs of the application made by claimants and the claimants’ lawyers.

“In our quest for ultimate restorative justice, the D6WC overall strategic plan of action, from a legal perspective, will expose the many fatal flaws with which restitution was tackled in District 6,” said Mr Ajam.

Mr Ajam still believes that the claimant community along with relevant stakeholders, government and business partners can help restore the losses of not only the properties but the community that was lost through apartheid’s forced removals.

Mr Ajam said their legal team was preparing for a court date in May where they would like the Minister of the Department of Rural Development and Land Reform, Maite Nkoana-Mashabane to attend to answer questions as to why she should not be held in contempt for non-delivery of restitution to the people of District 6.

The Department of Rural Development and Land Reform did not respond to queries by the time the Tatler went to print.