Lawyer on a mission to fix the wrongs grandparents suffered in District Six
For Tiffany Agulhas, 27, candidate attorney at law firm Norton Rose, seeing the hurt in her grandmother's eyes every time she spoke about District Six is what motivates her as part of the legal team representing the claimants.
“My grandparents lived in District Six, in upper Hanover Street. They never spoke about their experiences there in great detail before.
"I asked my grandmother what it was like living in District Six. She had this forlorn look in her eyes, and reluctantly she opened up.”
“I believe the community of District Six has become very angry and despondent about land restitution,” Agulhas said. She said she was surprised when she was informed that Norton Rose will be handling the case. I was very excited because Norton Rose is a very commercial law firm.
"I work in the public interest department and fortunately I have the opportunity to be part of the case.”
Norton Rose is handling the case between the District Six Working Committee and the Department of Rural Development and Land Reform. The committee has been back and forth in court to hold the department accountable for its failure to provide restitution to District Six claimants since 1998.
Agulhas said a big moment for her was when former minister of rural development and land reform Maite Nkoana-Mashabane testified in court last month. “To me it was about time that the people of District Six came closer to getting answers. It was a monumental occasion and it was a relief because someone has to be held accountable for the failure of land restitution.”
While testifying last month, Nkoana-Mashabane expressed regret that the initial court order was not fully complied with.
She said her department could only afford R351 million a year for District Six, while redevelopment would eventually cost R11 billion, of which R2.4bn would be needed to provide housing for the 1000 remaining claimants. Nkoana-Mashabane asked for a further “three-months plus” in which she would report back to court. But she was heckled in the courtroom, packed mostly with elderly claimants.
Agulhas said there were times she felt like standing up and saying something to the minister. “I wanted to remind her about how vital land restitution is for the people who lost their dignity in the past.”
Her grandmother, Nadia Wilhelmina Hendricks-Pritchard, 75, said: “I am proud and thankful that Tiffany is involved in this project. It brought back many memories. I think restitution is important because it will bring healing and closure to the displaced residents of District Six, which was and always will be my home.”
Agulhas said she wants the youth to be more proactive in issues relating to the injustices of the country.
“My biggest hope for the youth is that they become more involved in social justice and politics and actively participate in platforms where they can make a difference.”@MarvinCharles17