Minister Maite Nkoana-Mashabane has been ordered to explain in person what is happening with the restitution claims of former District Six residents. Picture: Marvin Charles/Cape Argus
Cape Town - Rural Development and Land Reform Minister Maite Nkoana-Mashabane has been ordered to explain in person what is happening with the restitution claims of the former District Six inhabitants.

Acting Judge President of the Land Claims Court Shehnaz Meer and and Acting Judge Tembeka Ngcukaitobi, sitting in the High Court, made the order after Nkoana-Mashabane and her department’s legal counsel, advocate Helen Ngomane, brought an application for a postponement of the case in which they were earlier ordered to give an update on the progress of the claims.

Meer said the minister’s counsel had failed to come up with an adequate explanation for why a postponement should be granted.

Instead the judge has ruled in favour of the claimants, ordering Nkoana-Mashabane to appear in court on May 17.

“The matter of District Six has dragged on for too long and it seems that this request for a postponement is an admission that she has not produced any clear answers,” Meer said.

Meer has also ordered the minister to file an answering affidavit to today’s application by May 6. In this affidavit, the minister will have to explain what steps she’s taken to adhere to the November 2018 ruling, why she should not be held in contempt of court and why she should not personally be ordered to pay the legal costs.

Ngcukaitobi said, “The minister had all this time to file an answering affidavit - why file for a postponement?”

In Nkoana-Mashabane’s request for a postponement she requested extra time to file an answering affidavit. She also appointed a new legal counsel. In a letter sent by the department of rural development and land reform to the state attorney they said, “The department feels that it would be best served if new counsel is appointed to carry the matter on to the next level going forward.”

The District Six Working Committee has labelled the judges’ order as a “monumental victory”.

“This is a victory for the people of District Six, this is a victory for the people of Cape Town. It is a victory for all the oppressed people because for 25 years our people have not received justice and District Six can serve as a catalyst for change. Our legal team has proven once again that this government was never ready for us and never ready for change,” said chairperson of the working committee Shahied Ajam. Last month the Land Claims Court ruled that the government had violated the rights of District Six claimants who lodged claims as far back as 1998, but are still awaiting restitution.

In a far-reaching judgment a day before Human Rights Day, Judge Kollapen granted the claimants a declaratory order, forcing the department to make good on its restitution promise.

In the District Six Working Committee court papers they said, “The minister did not comply with that order and instead filed a report with the court on February 26, 2019, which stated her report does not contain the plan and programme which the court ordered her to deliver by that date.”

Ajam said for the past 20 years claimants had been treated like “slap chips”. “They have disregarded us; the court ruling showed that they must respect the dignity of the people, that they must restore the dignity of the people. District Six can serve as a model for change,” he said.


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Cape Argus