Residents battle to reclaim their land

LILLIAM AMOS

Over the past year, the City of Cape Town, along with the Regional Land Claims Commission (RLCC), has given back R7.4 million worth of land to two families in Lotus River and Retreat, through land restitution.

The land was lost by the families through either the Native Land Act of 1913 or the Group Areas Act of 1950.

In April last year, the 6.4 acres of land was officially handed back to the Solomon family by mayor Patricia de Lille in a special ceremony at the premises in 11th Avenue, Retreat.

The original owner, a vegetable farmer named Isaac Solomon, was forced to sell the land he had bought because that particular section of land in Retreat had been declared a whites-only area under the Group Areas Act.

Mr Solomon’s daughter, Juanita Solomon, submitted the application to have the land returned two decades ago. It was a lengthy process, but her wishes finally came true. Ms Solomon said the journey had been frustrating and drawn-out, but she had persevered and was satisfied that she had fulfiled her father’s wishes of claiming back the land that rightfully belonged to his descendants.

Last year, the Davids family also had their day of land restitution. They had lost land through the Land Act.

Four hectares of land in Lotus River, worth about R1.8 million, was handed back to them in an official ceremony by the City of Cape Town.

Doud Davids, the first owner, purchased the land in 1963 when he stayed in a corrugated structure opposite the now open field.

He lived with his wife, Garaniesa, and their eight children, and his dream was to have his children build their own homes on the land when they were older.

Two years later, in 1965, he was dispossessed of his land.

Mr Davids died in 1980, but his family continued the fight to get the land back.

Meanwhile, the De Freitas family in Fifth Avenue, Lotus River, have confirmed that the RLCC is in the process of handing them their 1 823 square metres of land.

The family have a popular fish business.

In the early 1960s, Edgar Charles de Freitas was living, farming and running his fish business from the land he bought.

In 1965, however, with the implementation of the Group Areas Act, Mr De Freitas was forcibly removed from part of the land and given a mere R1 000 as compensation.

The land was taken by the previous municipality for the provision of basic municipal services to build a school or a park.

The land, however, remained vacant for more than 50 years.

In 1998, Mr De Freitas made an application to the Commission on Restitution of Land Rights to claim back the land that had been taken from him.

Mr De Freitas, however, died 15 years ago, and his wife, Cecelia de Freitas, and their 10 children continued to pursue the claim.

Mayor Patricia de Lille said land restitution was important to the City of Cape Town because it was one of the greatest opportunities for redress and reconciliation.

“We want to play our part in righting the wrongs of the past. It is through healing in this manner that we can build a city where everyone feels a stronger sense of belonging,” said Ms De Lille.

“Council resolved to release these erven for restitution purposes. Although we are legally entitled to keep the land, we believe that this land was never ours to begin with.

We have therefore endeavoured to complete our part of the process as speedily as possible,” she said.

“Our haste is driven by the fact that a generation of claimants is losing time and losing hope. At the current rate of restitution, many claimants will not live to see the justice in their lifetime, and they will not live to see the return of land which rightfully belongs to them. Too many have been waiting for too long,” said Ms De Lille