CAPE TOWN - For 85-year-old Gertie Bottoman from Gugulethu, choosing a house instead of money as a form of restitution means leaving a tangible legacy for her family.
Bottoman is among the 108 District Six land claimants who are expected to finally return home in about two weeks’ time after more than two decades of waiting.
This is part of phase three of the District Six Development Project. Construction of the remaining 954 units will be carried out in two major builds to be completed in 2025.
“I believe a house is a better investment, not only will my children benefit but my great grandchildren. Being removed was painful. No one wanted to leave. We were happy here with our families, it was a peaceful community. I’m happy to be back here,” said Bottoman.
Emotional claimants were speaking during an oversight visit on Tuesday, where Deputy President David Mabuza, in his capacity as the chairperson of the Inter-Ministerial Committee (IMC) on Land Reform and Agriculture assessed progress made.
For 80-year-old Juliega Cooper, having her own home meant no more stress about rent.
“I’m currently renting and it keeps on increasing. To know now I’ll have my own home makes me want to jump up and down for joy. About six of my friends who were also claimants have passed away.
“My mom was sitting outside when our house was demolished. She was aged 103 and died of heartbreak.
“I thank God for granting me this opportunity to be able here, my dignity has been restored. However, I’m worried about the steep hills and that it’s a double-story house with stairs,” said Cooper.
Margaret Mpuhlu, 82, from Gugulethu said she had wished her late husband was alive to see the day they moved into the units.
“When we were removed we didn’t know where the trucks were taking us until we entered Gugulethu, we struggled a lot to adapt to the living conditions.
“There have been so many delays… I wish to move in today. I’ll stay here with my one daughter and the grandchildren,” she said.
Mabuza said while District Six can never be returned to its original and perhaps historical set-up, the dignity of the people of the community will be restored.
“The ageing population of District Six is a symbol that this development project needs to move faster and there needs to be a further allocation of funds toward these houses.
“We are pleased that today, under the auspices of our Western Cape Presidential Land Reform Programme, 139 dwellings have been allocated to beneficiaries of this Land Restitution Programme, and the remaining 108 dwellings will be handed over once all processes have been completed,” said Mabuza.
Agriculture, Land Reform and Rural Development Minister Thoko Didiza said: “When it comes to this phase 3 and phase 4 that we are now busy with, the claimant requested government assistance in terms of financial resources to be able to conclude. We heard the complaints of stairs and inclined environments. It is not an ideal situation but we made a split type of arrangement which allows for wheelchairs.”
Human Settlements Minister Mmamoloko Kubayi-Ngubane said: “There are some funding shortfalls that we will have to look into but we have made some commitments including bulk infrastructure as part of our responsibility in the human settlement.”