Nomaxhabiso Nobaza and her son Phaphamani Gotsi got their title deed. Picture: Ayanda Ndamane /African News Agency(ANA)
Nomaxhabiso Nobaza and her son Phaphamani Gotsi got their title deed. Picture: Ayanda Ndamane /African News Agency(ANA)

Title deeds: Inequality being tackled to give families hope

By Opinion Time of article published Apr 16, 2021

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by Brian Williams

Political scientist and renowned public intellectual Keith Gottschalk praised the transfer of title deeds to families on the Cape Flats.

He stated that “this is a welcome move and makes it possible for families to invest in building extensions for other family members. It also contributes to the local economy through building work and employment. In addition, beautification of the property usually follows title deed transfers, as well as ensuring a level of community cohesion and ownership certainty for the family.”

Peace Ambassador Rusche Petersen and I were in Athlone on April 13, where he mentioned that there were people in the area who had received their titles after waiting for decades. We discussed this in the context of peace and housing as a right.

Rusche is from Manenberg and works with me. I was intrigued by the relationship between peace and title deeds.

I decided to obtain more information about the transfer of title deeds, given its historical value in addressing the issue of housing as a right.

The title deed also gives peace of mind and certainty to the new owner. It makes it possible for family members to benefit from the house as an inheritance. These specific title deeds allow people from the working class to become homeowners and invested in their communities.

Alderman Grant Twigg, the Mayco member for urban management, has been described as the driving force behind the current title deeds programme.

Since taking the leadership role at urban management, he has made it possible for the City to deliver on its promises in key areas of providing services to citizens.

The title deeds issue also made me think about our history at the Cape. I wondered about the identity of the first person who was “given” a title deed, which made that person the landowner of the property demarcated in that first title deed.

I also wondered under what circumstances the handing out of the first title deed took place. I suppose some historian would know the answer to that question, but somehow the issuing of title deeds on the Cape Flats triggered that interest.

My search took me to a website that stated “On July 13, 1685, Commander Simon van der Stel received the title deed for 763 hectares of land in a fertile and picturesque valley … Groot Constantia.”

The website also stated that 15 years later, “following in his father’s footsteps, Willem Adrian van der Stel claimed 30 000 hectares on the slopes of the Hottentots Holland mountains in 1700 …”

However, I digress. The point of my excitement is the fact that ordinary people who rented and paid for their accommodation many times over finally received title deeds. I was also interested to know who in the City acted as the champion to make these recent transfers that were celebrated possible.

The information I received indicated it was Twigg, who grew up in a council house in Heideveld on the Cape Flats. He has passionately championed the issue of transferring title deeds. Twigg knows first hand the high value attached to property ownership for families who pay rent to the City.

Twigg has a fascinating history as a former trade unionist and community leader working for the poor and the destitute. He was described by community leader Christopher Mfazwe as a person who could be trusted to deliver on his promises.

I was reminded about the caring role of Twigg by Ronald Adams, a former union leader. I also remember Twigg from my heady days in the labour movement.

The handing over of title deeds must rank as one of the most emotionally enriching, as well as historically pleasing, for the family. Many people will appreciate the importance of getting a title deed as proof of accomplishment and recognition. From the days of apartheid, the denial of basic human rights was entrenched as a normal state of affairs.

The scars of the Group Areas Act continue to cause trauma for those dwellers in rented property on the Cape Flats who have paid for their accommodation many times over. Restorative justice demands that the process of issuing title deeds be made an even higher special priority given its importance as a contributor to building peace in communities. Hundreds of title deeds have been issued under the leadership of Alderman Twigg.

Good news is always needed. It is good news that brings hope and shatters the state of hopelessness that traps people in a negative spiral. The issuing of title deeds contributes towards a state of harmony in the hearts of people and creates legacies. The more title deeds issued, the greater the prospects for social cohesion, local economic development, employment and inner peace within individuals and families.

* Professor Brian Williams is Visiting Professor in Peace, Mediation and Labour Relations: University of the Sacred Heart, Gulu, Uganda; chief executive: Williams Labour Law and Mediation; Thought Leader Award Recipient for 2018 (Black Management Forum); International Award-winning poet: seven books published.

** The views expressed here are not necessarily those of Independent Media.

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