Time lost over land claim

Juanita Solomon has been trying to get her family's land back for over 20 years.

After more than 20 years of fighting for her family’s land, a Retreat pensioner fears she won’t live to see the land, that is rightfully theirs, handed back to them.

Juanita Solomon, 74, has been driving past her family’s 6.5 acres of land along 11th Avenue in Retreat for decades, renting a house a few roads away from the land. The municipal value of the land in 2015 was R5.6 million.

The Solomon family were forced to sell the land on the corner of 11th Avenue and Leytonstone Road, in Retreat, because of apartheid’s Group Areas Act (“Solomon family claim their rightful erf”, Southern Mail, November 4, 2015).

Ms Solomon was three weeks old when her father, Isaac Solomon, a vegetable farmer, moved her and her siblings to the plot where he would toil the land every night after dinner and had chickens, cattle and horses.

In 1995 Ms Solomon logged a claim with the Regional Land Claims Commission (RLCC) to request that the land that was taken from her and her family be returned to them. Her brother had started the land claim but died and she took on the responsibility of fighting for their land.

In October 2015 a handover ceremony was held by Mayor Patricia de Lille at the piece of land and Ms Solomon was overjoyed.

“The City of Cape Town offered to buy the land from us but I said no because we want to build 20 houses for myself and my extended family. It was my father’s wish that the land be used by his offspring and that is what I wish to do. However, the land has not been given to us as was promised in 2015. We are still waiting,” said Ms Solomon.

In 2015 Ms De Lille said the Solomon family’s story was a sad one. She said giving the land back was to ensure that they undo the unjust legacy of the past and said council resolved to release the erven as speedily as possible.

She also added that the haste for land restitution is driven by the fact that a generation of claimants is losing time and hope.

“At the current rate of restitution, many claimants will not live to see justice in their lifetime. They will not live to see the return of land which rightfully belongs to them,” said Ms De Lille.

Last year, however, the family had to seek legal assistance when it was announced that part of their land won’t be given back to them.

“We appointed an advocate and an attorney. After legal negotiations, it was confirmed that all the land will be given back to us and will be signed off on March 30 this year. So far, after several calls to the City of Cape Town as well as the RLCC, the land has still not been signed off to us and we are already in June,” said Ms Solomon.

“The City has said there needs to be a council sitting to sign off the land and for the deed of sale to be processed. Why is it taking them so long to give us our land back? We have given them all the proof. Is this a delay tactic because they don’t want to give my family our land back?” asked Ms Solomon.

“I am extremely sad because of the delay. It hurts me so much that our land has not been returned to us. First they kicked us off the land and now they don’t want to give it back. I am keeping the faith and praying it happens before I am no more,” said Ms Solomon.

Southern Mail asked the City of Cape Town as well as the RLCC about the land claim a week before publication but neither responded to our requests for comment in time for this edition. All Luthando Tyhalibongo, the City’s media manager, said was: “The City is investigating the matter and will respond in due course.” David Smit from RLCC said: “Please note your request for information was forwarded to the relevant officials dealing with enquiries.”

Ms Solomon said she has been getting the same responses from the relevant departments.