PHOTO ESSAY: Elderly District Six couple longing to return
Now the couple, both aged 94, has a burning wish to return to the area.
Daughter Freda van der Merwe said: “Sometimes we take a drive up to District Six just to show them how the area now looks, and it’s so heartbreaking to see those empty houses just standing there and nothing going on.”
The couple live in Elsies River with Van Der Merwe. Catherine celebrated her birthday last Thursday. She has difficulty speaking and hearing.
She married Cyril, who was a young soldier from the Bo-Kaap, in 1944. The newly-weds moved into Catherine’s family home at 213 Hanover Street, an area known as the cultural heart of the now demolished neighbourhood.
The couple stayed there for 30 years, before pressure and evictions by the apartheid government led them to accept an offer to relocate to a home in Silvertown, Athlone.
“They feel very disheartened when they see how District Six looks at the moment because I can see they really want to be there more than anything in this world, they want to be there,” Van Der Merwe said.
The couple’s claims were lost between 1995 and 1998. They filed another claim in 2000 and have been waiting since. As a last attempt to seek answers they joined the District Six Working Committee in taking the department of rural development and land reform to court. “My parents were so lost when they told them that their claims were lost and they went back and forth and they were told that their papers were lost constantly. Then we decided to lodge a new claim which we are still waiting on,” Van Der Merwe said.
In 2015 they joined a march, in their wheelchairs, to the steps of the City of Cape Town Civic Centre offices to express their concern about delays in the land claims process. But that march proved to be in vain as the couple still wait.
“My parents aren’t getting younger and they desperately want to go back before they die. We are tired of waiting and not getting answers from anyone,” Van Der Merwe said.
The court case between the District Six Working Committee and the Department of Rural Development and Land Reform is expected to be heard in November this after the committee filed a court application against the department’s failure to provide restitution to District Six claimants since 1998.@MarvinCharles17