The District Six land restitution saga is beset by confusion about who is taking responsibility for the settlement of the land claims. File picture
Cape Town - The District Six land restitution saga is beset by confusion about who is taking responsibility for the settlement of the land claims.

Part of the confusion is a court battle between the District Six working committee and the Department of Rural Development and Land Reform that has stalled after it emerged that the department had not responded to a court application filed in April.

The application was lodged in the Land Claims Court in Johannesburg. The department was initially supposed to respond to the court application in May but failed to do so.

“We always expected the government to oppose this. They were given until May 30 to file answering papers, but they did not. I have spoken to the state attorney and he understands the frustration and he indicated that the answering papers will be filed this Friday,” law firm Norton Rose Fulbright director Nicki Van’t Riet said.

The committee filed a court application against the department’s failure to provide restitution to District Six claimants since 1998. It was stated in court papers that the national government and the commission have a constitutional obligation to observe the Bill of Rights, which includes the right to restitution. The committee is representing 969 claimants, with 22 respondents listed. Of the claimants, 70 are elderly.

Chairperson of the District Six working committee Shahied Ajam said: “We are not here to point fingers but what is wrong is wrong.”

Last week an “agreement” was reached between the provincial standing committee on human settlements and the Department of Rural Development to transfer the budget for District Six to the Provincial Department on Human Settlement.

But the department has backtracked on its plans to transfer the budget for the historic District Six area to the provincial department.

The standing committee chairperson, Matlhodi Maseko, said: “The department said in our first discussion on June 19 that the construction company Fikile did a shoddy job and the challenge that the department has is that no company wants to take over the development.”

Department of Rural Development and Land Reform spokesperson Phuti Mabelebele said: “The department is committed to resolving the District Six matters for the benefit of the people of District Six amicably and will do so guided and complying with the laws.”

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Cape Argus