Cape Town - She experienced the horror of forced removals by the apartheid regime. Uprooted from her beloved District Six and thrown onto the sandy plains of the Cape Flats, the only thing that she lived for was to return home.
But for 100-year-old Shariefa Khan it was not to be. She died at her home in Connaught Estate, Elsies River, from where she was buried on Wednesday.
Funeral prayers took place according to Islamic customs, and aunty Shariefa was laid to rest at the Pook Road Muslim Cemetery.
“She was an example to everyone. She was a brilliant person with impeccable character. Very pious, she recited Qur’an regularly, made tahajjud (night prayer) daily up until very recently. She recited Qur’an until she couldn't see clearly, and when she couldn’t, we recited around her and we’d just see her lips moving along with ours,” grandson Suleiman da Costa said.
Khan had been bedridden for the past six months. Da Costa said she had spoken about District Six often, with many stories to share, reminiscing about friends and life in District Six, but also what she endured, including the forced removals.
“She was just disappointed with the time it took,” Da Costa said of the restitution process.
The District 6 Working Committee (D6WC) in a statement said Khan died after breathing difficulties, and with family by her bedside.
“Mrs Khan would have turned 101 on April 25. Last April, she signed the papers to receive her new apartment in District 6, as part of Phase 3 of the restitution process. Her family spent some months making the unit more comfortable and disabled-friendly for her,” its statement said.
D6WC spokesperson Karen Breytenbach said Khan did not receive final permission to move in as the government was still addressing safety concerns and defects in the buildings.
“The D6WC would like to extend its heartfelt condolences to the Khan family and share its utter grief and disappointment with not seeing Mrs Khan’s final wish of restitution being fulfilled,” she said.
District Six Civic Association chairperson Asa Salie said Khan was elated when shown she was allocated the unit.
“I know because she came here afterwards and I shared in her joy. What a let down by the government and everyone who was responsible for this delay. Nothing will ease the pain that Aunty Shariefa felt and how heartsore she was. It is sad that she couldn't have her last wish, like so many of our elderly,” Salie said.
The Department of Land Reform and Rural Development conveyed its condolences to the Khan family.
Department spokesperson Reggie Ngcobo said Khan was allocated a unit in Phase 3 of District Six in April, last year.
“The department had expected that she and other claimants would have been able to move back to District 6 shortly after that, however this has been delayed due to the process of obtaining occupancy certificates,” said Ngcobo.
“The department is working with the City of Cape Town to finalise the process of obtaining the occupation certificates for all the units.”