Victory for District Six claimants

District Six Claimants and D6WC picketing outside the Western Cape High Court. Image by Wardah Wilkinson.

District Six claimants have new hope after a court ruling last week effectively told the state it had dragged its feet on restitution for long enough.

The Western Cape High Court ordered the Department of Rural Development and Land Reform (DRDLR) to provide a plan for the redevelopment of 42 hectares of District Six. High Court Judge Jody Kollapen has ordered the department to come back to the court, on February 18, next year, with a clear plan.

Shahied Ajam, chairman of the District Six Working Committee (D6WC), was thrilled with the ruling.

“If you follow due process, with regards to our beautiful constitution, then justice can be served; you will face a lot of adversity and negativity, but as long as you keep on the straight path, you will have success.”

Mr Ajam said the DRDLR should show good faith and try to complete phase three of construction in Keizersgracht Street, next to CPUT, which would house 108 claimants, with first preference given to the elderly.

The department’s plan should allow the claimants a 10-year “tenure holiday” during which they don’t pay rates and taxes, he said.

There was a need to create employment opportunities in the area and attract business there, he said.

DRDLR spokeswoman Phuti Mabelebele said Minister Maite Nkoana Mashabane had noted the ruling.

“The department has been working on a plan to finalise the District Six matter and will continue to work towards its finalisation to present to court in compliance with the court order,” said Ms Mabelebele.

Nicki van’t Riet, director of Norton Rose Fulbright, the legal firm representing the District Six claimants, said the DRDLR’s plan would need to be drawn up in consultation with the claimants and various organs of state and give details on the number of residential units.

Ms Van’t Riet said they planned to meet with the DRDLR every three months to check on the department’s progress.

Latiefaa Abrahams, 73, of Hanover Park was one of the claimants at court.

“I am here today because I am desperate and determined to get my home back. After all, I don’t know any other place only District Six,” she said.

Faried Theunissen, 63, from Surrey Estate, said: “I am happy with the outcome of the court. Every time when I moved past District Six, I would feel sad, I would like to move back there.”

Abdullah Hendricks, 74, from Lansdowne, said: “I am still waiting since 1998. I told my wife that I want to go back to District Six before I die.”

The chairperson of the provincial standing committee on human settlements, Matlhodi Maseko, welcomed the ruling.

“I hope the Department of Rural Development and Land Reform under the leadership of Minister Miate Nkoana-Mashabana will prioritise the District Six land restitution to heal the wounds that the apartheid system inflicted on these communities.

“I will continue to hold her accountable until this project is concluded. It is high time that her department prioritises service delivery rather than using the land restitution as a politicking tool.”

This ruling might also affect the Holy Cross Primary School’s plans to lease land from the City that is subject to District Six claims (“’Playground’ earmarked for D6 Claimants,” Southern Suburbs Tatler, September 20).

Area north Mayco member Grant Twigg said the City could not pre-empt the DRDLR’s layout plan for the redevelopment of the area.

“This plan will determine the City’s course of action, which means the City would need to get permission from the Regional Land Claims Commission, as per the Land Restitution Act before it could be leased,” he said.

Mr Ajam said it was important for the DRDLR to respect the court ruling because it would reflect poorly on both it and the president if it didn’t.