The affordable education loan option
Cape Town - Number 16A Rutger Street.
For the first time in 33 years, Blanche Kensley, 82, has an address in District Six.
“Hi everybody, I’m back home to stay,” the delighted woman said, waving her ownership placard about on her burgundy stoep. “I saw this place in my dreams, but now it’s a reality.”
Blanche received the placard from city mayor Patricia de Lille, Premier Helen Zille and Rural Development and Land Reform Minister Gugile Nkwinti at a ceremony in District Six on Saturday, when 66 new houses were handed over to claimants.
Kensley was one of the last people to be removed from District Six in 1980, when she lived in Constitution Street. The area was declared “whites only” by the government in 1966, and under the Group Areas Act residents were removed to the Cape Flats and their houses bulldozed.
She and her husband, Charles, brought up their eight children in Mitchells Plain. Now aged 82, she has 17 grandchildren and nine great-grandchildren.
And this year they’ll all spend Christmas back in the place of their family’s roots.
“It feels like home, but I miss my lovey,” Kensley said of her husband, who died nine years go. A framed photograph of him was one of the first possessions she brought into her new home.
Kensley moved in on Friday evening, enjoying her first cup of coffee as an official District Six resident again with her daughters Cynthia, Rhonda and Venessa. Her house has three bedrooms and a back yard with a view of Table Mountain.
On Saturday, her new neighbour brought over a pot of vegetable soup for her first hearty meal at home.
Ferial Thomas has been friends with Kensley for 40 years, since they worked together sewing men’s pants for Woolworths.
“She made Mitchells Plain home, but she missed District Six,” said Thomas.
“She was looking forward to it all these years.”
The best part, Thomas said, was “that feeling of having something of your own”.
The handing over of keys was a song-filled and ceremonious affair, with the oldest claimant being 93 years old.
De Lille welcomed the new residents back to their old home. “District Six has been an especially sad symbol in our collective memory. But for me, it’s also personal.”
She recounted her memories of sitting on her grandmother’s stoep in Tennant Street, before she was forcibly removed to Lavender Hill.
Zille led a rendition of “O ek wil huis toe gaan, na mamma toe” (Oh, I want to go back home to mom), and announced a R65 million budget set aside to build a wellness centre to service the health needs of District Six residents.
Once the placards had been handed out, Zille put her arm around Kensley and snapped a picture on her cellphone, describing how she was posting it on Twitter.
“I’m famous,” Kensley laughed.
Nkwinti placated those who watched friends and former neighbours move into the houses, telling them that those who did not receive keys on Saturday would have to hold on a bit longer.
“I’ve been waiting for 17 years,” said Jasmi Kalam, who registered for land restitution in 1996.
“I want to see this process be free and fair to those who are on the list.”
Saturday’s handover was part of phase two of the District Six redevelopment programme. Claimants who registered for restitution in 1996, 1997 and 1998 are anxiously awaiting the third phase of the project.