Cape Town - “A complete miscarriage of justice” was the furious response from District Six land claimants following the Department of Rural Development and Land Reform’s submission that it would take two more decades for them to return to the place they call home.
In papers before court, the department said it could only repatriate the land by 2039.
District Six Working Committee chairperson Shahied Ajam on Tuesday said: “We are at war with the department because, apart from the frustration with how long it will take, the real question is why are they stretching this District Six matter?
“It has become clear now that they have never had any interest in District Six. This is a complete miscarriage of justice.”
The committee has accused the department of being in breach of a court order. The committee’s lawyers planned on calling for an urgent court hearing on the matter, he said.
According to the committee, there were 3000 claimants fighting to return to District Six. “All the claimants would have died by then that’s not right, they are playing with us and they are playing with our livelihoods.”
The department’s papers were in response to a Western Cape High Court order in November last year.
“At the outset, it bears mentioning that the plan envisaged by the order has not yet been completed as consultations are still ongoing.
“There was a period from mid-December to mid-January during which consultations and further attendances in this matter were very difficult as most people were out of the office and on holiday,” said the department’s acting deputy director general, Pule Sekwana.
“Taking into consideration the preferences and needs of the community, the heritage status of District Six, along with the on site state of the land in District Six act as cost drivers to achieving the redevelopment,” Sekwana said. Development of hundreds of houses in District Six could cost more than R11.6 billion and take up to two decades to complete, according to the department.
Rural Development and Land Reform Minister Maite Nkoana-Mashabane, in an open letter, said her department remained committed to the redevelopment of District Six, but more money would be required.
“The department has facilitated a new holistic plan for development for the remaining phases. Out of this plan, it expected that an amount of approximately R2.4bn would be further required to complete housing for current outstanding restitution claimants in District Six,” she said.
Nkoana-Mashabane said in November that the department had appointed a new contractor - Haw and Inglis - on a new 19-month contract for R17.8 million.
Initially, the department appointed Durban-based Fikile Construction to complete the phase 3 development of the District Six land reform programme, but it had been halted after their contract was terminated.
“The intent of the redevelopment was to return forcibly removed non-white communities back from the periphery of the city back to the centre.
“This works to undo the legacy of apartheid spatial planning and to effect transformation against racial separation,” she said.