Human Settlements Standing committee chairperson Matlhodi Maseko had invited Nkoana-Mashabane to the legislature to seek clarity on a range of issues facing the District Six community.
“It’s disappointing, we thought that her coming here would provide some sort of clarity as to what they would need to get homes - whether they need to put their names on the database for housing, or will the houses be available when the project is completed,” Maseko said.
Only 139 units have been completed and a further 108 residential units are still under construction. The committee sought answers on the availability of funding for compensation and the building of housing units and the completion date of the District Six built programme.
“It’s just the information that we need. This was a last resort for us if the minister could come and provide us with these answers,” Maseko said. She said it’s appalling that after 52 years, many District Six residents are still waiting to be returned to the area.
“The people of District Six deserve answers. We cannot allow this injustice to persist while national government sits on its hands,” she said.
District Six claimant Achmat Williams was furious with the minister’s no-show.
“What are we doing here (at the standing committee)? This is unacceptable, She didn’t even submit an apology,” he said.
Another claimant, Sumaya Taliep, said: “The community is exasperated. They are frustrated by the department’s failure tocommunicate with us. We want this restitution process to be completed.”
Taliep said many residents were old and wanted to die on the land.
District Six Working Committee chairperson Shahied Ajam said the minister should respond to the committee.
“The minister should respond to the residents of District Six and to us as the committee. We launched a court application for this exact reason because of the minister not being able to provide answers,” Ajam said.
A battle between the committee and the Department of Rural Development and Land Reform is looming after the committee filed a court application against the department’s failure to provide restitution to District Six claimants since 1998. The application was lodged last month at the Land Claims Court in Johannesburg. In court papers it is stated that the national government and the commission have a constitutional obligation to observe the Bill of Rights, which includes the right to restitution.
The committee is representing 969 claimants and 22 respondents are listed. Of the claimants, 70 are elderly, with the oldest in her nineties. Ajam said they had received a notice from the department indicating it would be defending the application in court.
“We need to reach common ground so that we can find a resolution for District Six,” he said.
The department’s head of ministry, spokesperson Mashile Mokolo, said: “The minister was in Parliament, but we will first ask the committee to brief us and then the minister can respond properly.”