The Western Cape High Court has rejected Rural Development and Land Reform Minister Maite Nkoana-Mashabane’s request for more time to present a plan to get District Six land claimants back into the historic area.
Now the court has summoned her to personally appear before the court in a month’s time. In another victory for the claimants, the court yesterday ordered Nkoana-Mashabane to personally account for her and her department’s failure to abide by a previous order to present a plan detailing a conceptual layout for the redevelopment of District Six.
She must outline funding details and budgets; time frames for the plan’s implementation; and a methodology that will be applied in allocating residential units.
More than 20 years after the restitution process was started, 89% of District Six claimants, or 1 078 people, have still not received a home, and this has spurred the District Six Working Committee (D6WC) to initiate legal action against Nkoana-Mashabane and her department.
The high court last year ordered Nkoana-Mashabane to formulate a plan to speed up the restitution process within three months, but she did not do so in the deadline provided by the court.
Instead Nkoana-Mashabane in February, her acting deputy director, Pule Sekwana, submitted an affidavit citing a number of reasons for non compliance with the court’s order, including financial struggles. Yesterday, an urgent application by the D6WC, demanding Nkoana-Mashabane appear in court personally, was heard.
Nkoana-Mashabane’s legal representative, advocate Helen Ngomane, asked the court for a postponement of the legal challenge, saying the minister had appointed a new counsel, and they needed time to familiarise themselves with the case.
But Land Claims Court Judge President Yasmin Meer, who presided over the case in the high court, did not accept the delay that would be caused by postponing the matter. Judge Meer criticised the fact that an application for a postponement had not been brought before proceedings got under way yesterday.
“The issue in District Six has been going on for years, and we must take judicial notice that thousands of restitution claimants cases have not been properly dealt with,” Judge Meer said.
The court ordered Nkoana-Mashabane to personally appear on May 17 and submit an affidavit containing steps to bring restitution, as ordered by the court last year. Nkoana-Mashabane should also give reasons why she should not personally be held liable for costs.
The court’s findings were met with cheers and applause from the public gallery. D6WC chairperson Shahied Ajam said it was another victory in their battle to get residents back into the area.
“The court today showed that the government must respect the people. “District Six can be a model for change in South Africa,” Ajam said.