Cape Town - After a year of uncertainty and extended wait, the Department of Agriculture, Land Reform and Rural Development has at last given the go-ahead for the final return of 108 District Six land claimants.
Last week, 20 of the 108 Phase 3 beneficiaries received the keys to their units in the new development, located on New Hanover and Russell Streets.
Rachida Cader, 78, will be receiving her keys today after a nearly 30-year wait for restitution. Cader was displaced from District Six in 1972 and was moved to Athlone.
“I’ve been waiting so long. It was such a long, hard struggle. There were times I didn’t bother to think about it any more.”
Minister Thoko Didiza announced that the return would be done in phases, in observance of Covid-19 protocol, starting from May 5 to May 25.
The department said it was still dealing with some family disputes and verification challenges.
Didiza apologised for the delays, which she referred to as unavoidable.
Claimants were originally scheduled to return in May/April last year but several delays, some caused by the Covid-19 pandemic, had pushed this back. Other delays included the issuance of occupancy certificates by the City due to balcony and staircase safety concerns.
District Six Civic Association chairperson Asa Salie said the return had come a year late. “The minister made the same statement in May last year and the people were supposed to move in from May 25 to mid-June 2021. The claimants of District Six are so anxious to be back that for this reason they just keep quiet and swallow everything that is dealt to them.”
Salie said she hopes the rest of the development moves with much haste, compared to previous phases.
District 6 working committee chairperson Zahrah Nordien said there was no indication as to when the next phase would commence and said the department should’ve commenced with the phase already.
“Because if they haven’t started with the next phase, as yet, how can she (Didiza) make a statement to say that they’ll be finished with the 975 claimants that must be restituted by the year 2025.”
During an oversight visit by the Inter-Ministerial Committee (IMC) on Land Reform and Agriculture, deputy president and IMC chairperson David Mabuza assured claimants that the more than 900 units would be completed within three years.
The 975 claimants are those who had applied for restitution between 1995 amd 1998, and are returning in a phased approach – including the 108 claimants. A further 3 000 applied for restitution between 2014 and 2016.
One of the claimants who recently returned, Nordien said: “They were over the moon, they couldn’t believe that a key was finally handed to them, to finally move back to District Six.”
Member of District Six Beneficiary and Redevelopment Trust Naeem Frances called for further clarity and definitive commitment from Didiza on remaining vacant land in District Six, which should be used to redress the crime of apartheid displacement.
“Until all claimants unite in their common cause to reclaim the dispossession of D6, this disunity will continue to play into the hands of those who want to capitalise on this prime stretch of real estate.