District Six working committee chairperson Shahied Ajam addresses thousands gathered to hear the update of a court battle between the D6 working committee and the department of rural development and land reform. Picture: Marvin Charles/Cape Argus
Cape Town - As part of the ongoing struggle in the District Six restitution saga, November 26 is the date set for the matter to be heard in the Western Cape High Court. This after the matter was moved from the Land Claims Court in Randburg.

The announcement was made during a mass meeting of claimants at the Castle of Good Hope along with the District Six working committee at the weekend.

Norton Rose Fulbright attorney Nicki van’t Riet said: “What we know is that the respondents are not opposing the relief sought by us regarding the formulation and implementation of a plan to provide restitution to claimants who lodged claims before December 31, 1998, and because of the state’s delay in reply to our papers we requested for the matter to be put under judicial management, which the court has allowed, so the matter is being managed by the court.”

Van’t Riet said the state was opposing an order that the committee was seeking, which was a declaration that it failed to provide restitution to the 1998 claimants and they were contesting that it was in violation of the rights of claimants, and it would be in breach of its obligations. “In essence they say that they agree that they need to provide a plan, but then they say no they are not obligated.”

In court papers responding to the District Six working committee, the Department of Rural Development and Land Reform lashed out at claimants.

Deputy director-general of rural infrastructure at the Department of Rural Development Leona Archary said in court papers that the department was not aware that the District Six working committee represented claimants.

She said changes in the development plans, such as density and typology, had a significant impact on the plans for the entire area, as well as the financial aspects.

“Given the complaints regarding representatively it was always difficult to establish what the claimants actually wanted. Meetings were sometimes not attended by all claimants, as a result decisions taken were rejected at subsequent meetings, which were better attended.”

Van’t Riet said: “We are arguing that it is disingenuous for the state to agree to the relieve of the structural interdict and say that they have not violated the rights of the District Six residents. We have also calculated that they have only built 1.6 houses per year between 1998 and 2018, so if they have to carry on like this it will take them 156 years to complete this.

“And we are saying that it cannot go on like this.”

The committee is representing 969 claimants and the respondents are 22 listed; 70 of the claimants are elderly with the oldest already in her 90s.

Van’t Riet said they were informed of 2670 claims that had been lodged with the Land Reform Commission by 1998. Some 1380 verified 1998 claimants had agreed to be financially compensated; 1216 opted for the land, where in 2000 the government undertook to provide them with homes.

To date only 139 units have been completed and a further 108 residential units are still under construction.

District Six working committee chairperson Shahied Ajam said: “We are not going to wait any longer for restitution and we not going to fight for a District Six that’s going to be sold off tomorrow. And we are guaranteed that this modern-day District Six will become a reality.”

Today, September 25th, the standing committee on human settlements is once again expected to get a briefing from the Department of Rural Development and land reform. However, proceedings might be stalled by the court case.

“I am not aware of the finer aspects of the court case: the committee has received a formal response from the department that she will not be attending the meeting. However, we also received communication that they will not be able to answer any questions which the committee might have, which I feel quite strange because why now all of a sudden?” said chairperson of the standing committee Matlhodi Maseko.

The provincial ANC accused the standing committee on human settlements of lying and making baseless claims on behalf of the provincial executive on District Six. 

Last month, the standing committee said 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 of Human Settlements. A day later, the department denied such plans existed. 

Earlier this month, the standing committee adopted its minutes from its previous meeting with the department last month. These minutes acknowledged the Department of Rural Development and Land Reform’s commitment to transferring phase 3 of District Six’s human settlement construction mandate to the provincial Department of Human Settlements.

Spokesperson for the department Phuti Mabelebele said: “The minister affirms her commitment to resolve the issues confronting the District Six residents by following due process within the stipulated rules. A high-level delegation is attending to the matter.”

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Cape Argus