Cape Town - He made a decision to wait in line with everybody else. In a way it was a chance to test the system.
But now, 16 years after he first lodged his land claim in 1998, advocate Hishaam Mohamed finds himself wishing that he had made a few phone calls to friends in the government.
“But that wouldn’t be right, that just wouldn’t feel right,” the provincial head of justice told the Cape Argus.
He was visiting a parking lot in Newlands.
It is something he has done often, a sad tradition he inherited from his father who also stopped at the plot on Mill Road, a short distance from the Newlands rugby stadium, since he was thrown off the land by the apartheid government in 1966.
His father, Abdullah Mohamed, died in 2002.
“The city owns the land, and they have leased it out as a parking lot,” said Mohamed. “This was once where my father had his corner store and our home.”
Mohamed said everyone in the family, from his oldest siblings to his youngest nephews, had been told stories about their “once magnificent” slice of Newlands.
And while the home was demolished in the late 1970s, with the land divided by a straight road, the dream of moving back on to the land persisted until 1998 when the land claims office opened its books for new claimants.
“My family turned to me and said ‘you can get us that land back’. They thought it would be easy because of my position.
“But I decided to be humble about it and join the queue,” said Mohamed.
It was only in 2005, after badgering the offices, that there was an end in sight.
The Mohameds were offered R25 580, which they rejected as it paled in comparison to the land valuation of R3 million, he said.
“As you can see, 16 years later, not much progress has been made,” he said standing in the parking lot as a car sped out of the gate.
“But the fundamental importance of pursuing the land where my siblings were born and lived is motivation enough with the hope that eventually we will have some finality.”
A victory is no longer even necessary - he just wants to close the books.
Just last week, the Department of Rural Development and Land Reform announced that 5 500 new claims had been made after offices opened to new cases.
Many of these have been lodged in the Western Cape - 1 363 claims.
“We have noted that the majority of those who have lodged claims since the re-opening of the lodgement of land claims have opted for financial compensation,” said chief land claims commissioner Nomfundo Gobodo.
He urged claimants to opt for land restoration rather than money, which would help address unequal land ownership patterns in South Africa.
Mohamed opted to take the land, and he is still waiting.
“The reason I’m coming forward is because this new land-claims process brings back memories of 1998. There was this feeling of hope that we could get back our father’s plot in Newlands.
“I want people to see what I went through, and I want the department to see that they have let us down and they must not forget us.”