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PEOPLE forcibly removed under apartheid when their suburbs were declared white, and who missed the December 1998 deadline to lodge land claims, will get a second chance when the process is reopened on June 20.
The reopening of claims was announced by President Jacob Zuma in his State of the Nation address last month, and at the weekend Rural Development and Land Reform Minister Gugile Nkwinti announced the date.
Nkwinti also told District Six claimants at a meeting on Saturday the indigent had been promised they would return to the area this year. Indigent claimants could register with a social integration committee in order to get their houses as soon as this month, Nkwinti said. The committee is made up of claimants responsible for social and economic integration in resettling the community.
Zuma also said the cut-off date for land claims would be extended, so that descendants of the Khoi and the San would be able to claim for their land dispossessed before 1913, when the Native Land Act was enacted, proclaiming 87 percent of South Africa’s land for white ownership only.
Department spokesman Mtobeli Mxotwa said they would release a manual in all 11 official languages in coming weeks to explain to people how to lodge their claims. What was also new in the process was that people who owned more than one house would be paid compensation for the extra plots.
The government would build their houses for them to return to and pay compensation for the other properties so the additional land could be used for commercial development. “The compensation will be in line with the constitution, it will be just and equitable,” Mxotwa said.
Nkwinti also said District Six claimants who wanted to occupy houses built by the government would not have to pay a R250 000 deposit.
Mxotwa said the deposit would apply only to claimants who wanted upmarket houses.
According to the business plan presented earlier, it required them to pay R250 000 towards homes worth R1 million. This would also buy them shares in a company which would drive the redevelopment of the area. The company was due to be set up by June.
The plan for District Six includes the construction of more than 4 000 homes, as well as office and retail space.
Claimant Asa Salie, who moved back in December, said all claimants were happy with the new plans for the area. “Everybody accepted the plans because the reference groups are finally consulting with claimants,” she said. Salie, 60, and her husband Abdurhman faced eviction from a Bo-Kaap home they had been renting for 17 years in September 2011. Salie kept the deposit for her District Six home aside and motivated her case to the District Six Beneficiary and Redevelopment Trust to return to the area as they were being evicted. They were rejected while houses stood empty because some other claimants had not yet raised their part of the financial contribution.
The Salies lived with neighbours and friends for a year until they returned to District Six in December. She said: “It couldn’t have been better. It was worth every minute and second of the fight. “The people are just so nice and it really is the spirit of District Six.”