District Six restitution under way

District Six Working Committee chairperson, Shahied Ajam speaks to claimants.

Residents have reason to be optimistic as national, provincial and local government are working together to speed up the restitution process and start development of the area by the end of March.

More than 500 claimants gathered at the Castle of Good Hope last month, to commemorate the 54th anniversary of District Six being declared a white group area under apartheid’s Group Areas Act.

The event was also attended by the District Six Working Committee (D6WC), the legal team representing the claimants, the District Six Civic Association (D6CA), City of Cape Town officials, as well as members of the Department of Rural Development Land Reform (DRDLR) and Department of Public Works and Infrastructure (DPWI).

Director General for DRDLR, Mdu Shabane said their department has committed R1.4 billion as part of the plan that was submitted by Minister Thoko Didiza to the Western Cape High Court in December.

The planning document by Ms Didiza indicated that they want to start developing District Six by the end of November, with 954 units built in seven phases simultaneously to try and finish construction by the end 2023.

The units will be on approximately 13 hectares of land, which will leave another 13.9 hectares to be developed for other claimants and used for other public private partnership developments.

First preference for the units will be for those who claimed between 1995 and 1998.

D6WC chairperson, Shahied Ajam did say that those who claimed between 2014 and
2016 and beyond would also receive restitution and alternative housing as soon as the 954 houses were completed, and therefore “no-one would be left behind”.

Mr Shabane, who was at the commemoration in the minister’s absence, says they will keep their word and on Tuesday March 17 they will return to the Land Claims Court to submit their progress report.

“We will tell the court that we will start with rubble removal but they need to go through a process with the City because it is a heritage site,” he said.

Mr Shabana is hoping they can start with the rubble removal by the end of March.

DPWI Minister Patricia de Lille says her department will work with other spheres of
government to finally return the rest of the claimants to District Six.

“Our department’s role in the process is to request to transfer 10 parcels of land to the Cape Peninsula University of Technology(CPUT) for their expansion,” she said.

Ms De Lille says this will ensure that CPUT in return transfers the other pieces of land they own where housing has already been constructed for the District Six community.

Mayor Dan Plato says the 54th commemoration of District Six being declared a white group area marks the day that many people were robbed of their sense of stability and pushed into the unknown.

“This day must not be forgotten so that these injustices will not be repeated,” he said. He said the City will continue
to support the restitution process.

The City’s Mayoral committee member for spatial planning and environment, Marian Nieuwoudt says her department will be responsible for the underground infrastructure once the redevelopment of District Six begins.

Ms Nieuwoudt also said they want to establish public open spaces in District Six which can help build a community.

“We are also in discussion to set up a water-wise programme which should be done in accordance with the public open spaces,” she said.

Some District Six Claimants are feeling encouraged after seeing the different government departments sharing their plans with them.

Murieda Hajee, 75, from Mitchell’s Plain, has been waiting 24 years for restitution.

“I am feeling a little bit better now after hearing that we will be going back,” she said.

Gaironeesa Adamson, 70, from Hanover Park, stayed in Dakota Street, District Six, before the removals.

“I am feeling glad and positive for what is going on now,” she said.

Moegamat Edwards, 85, from Mitchell’s Plain said in the past he never really paid attention to the slow progress.

“Through the new management, D6WC has done a lot of work so my brother Ismail Edwards and I are paying more attention now,” he said.

Mr Ajam said he is encouraged that his organisation can work
closely with all spheres of government.

“I have been in intergovernmental meetings so all of us have worked around the clock to make sure this plan by Minister Didiza is workable and acceptable to the people,” he said.

Mr Ajam added that he was happy that Ms Didiza had followed the court order handed out by the Western Cape High Court in August which indicated that their former
minister, Maite Nkoana-Mashabane had been negligent in failing to deliver a comprehensive plan for the redevelopment of District Six (“Residents eager to return to their home,” Southern Suburbs Tatler, August 8)

Mr Ajam said the next step was to remove the rubble which will take place within the next two months. The public has until Monday March 2 to comment on the rubble removal process.

They can contact the South African Heritage Resource Agency on 021 462 4502 for details.

Mr Ajam says the claimants will play a big role in the vision of District Six so there will be workshop for the claimants.

The City of Cape Town will also host an open information session and workshop on the design framework for District Six with claimants and stakeholders at the Civic Centre on Saturday March 21.