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Cape Town - They were forcibly removed and their homes demolished in a process that started 47 years ago today.
On Monday morning, about 80 former District Six residents will return to where their houses once stood to reflect on their difficult journey to restitution.
District Six was declared a White Group Area on February 11, 1966. For many, this date signalled the beginning of the destruction of a close-knit community. Families were forcibly removed by the apartheid government and “dumped” on the Cape Flats, including in Bonteheuwel, Mitchells Plain, Langa and Khayelitsha.
On Monday, former residents will go on a “remembrance walk”, starting at the District Six Museum at 11am and ending at the District Six Homecoming Centre, both on Buitenkant Street. “The 47th anniversary is all about holding on to the legacy of District Six, but letting go of the evils of the Native Land Act,” said Bonita Bennett, the director of the District Six Museum and organiser of the walk.
“It’s been a difficult journey for people. They are still waiting for their houses.
“This event allows for them to reflect, revisit the site, and gives government and the District Six redevelopment task team the opportunity to update ex-residents on the restitution process.”
District Six is being redeveloped, managed by the District Six redevelopment task team, headed by the regional Land Claims Commission and the Department of Rural Development and Land Reform.
Claimants were given a full picture of the redevelopment plan at a public exhibition at Trafalgar High School in December 2011.
The redevelopment was expected to be completed towards the end of next year.
In April 2011, during a visit to the site, President Jacob Zuma announced that 2 670 former inhabitants would be returned to the area by 2014. The restitution has spanned more than a decade as claimants have been listed and their claims verified. Some have died waiting to return to the homes they were forced out of.
It will cost about R7 billion to turn the 42 hectares of District Six into a mix of claimants’ housing, commercial and office space, and extra rental housing.
Michael Worsnip, the chief director of restitution support at the regional Land Claims Commission, said they were on track to deliver the houses by the president’s 2014 deadline. “I’m not saying that every last one of the claimants will move in by 2014, but there is an eye on the ball as far as that goes.”
Worsnip said a special-purpose vehicle would be launched in July to drive the process forward.
About Monday’s walk, Bennett said that, as had become a tradition, ex-residents would bring stones from the areas to which they were displaced and walk with these to Hanover Street, where a cairn had evolved from the annual commemorative act.