One of the oldest District Six claimants dies without restitution
District Six Working Committee chairperson Shahied Ajam said: “It is with such great sadness that I’ve just learnt of the passing of 94-year-old Mrs Catherine Wagner, one of the oldest District Six restitution claimants who died peacefully in her sleep at her daughter’s home in Elsies River.
“Mrs Wagner was not only a stalwart of the District Six Working Committee but a mother to all who knew her, due to her amazing spirit.”
Wagner dreamed of returning to District Six and once said “if I could only go back to District Six for one day and die the next, then that would make me very happy indeed”.
Wagner and her husband applied for restitution in 1995, but because the government lost their application along with hundreds of others, they had to reapply for restitution in 2014.
“Sadly, social justice did not arrive in time for her,” said Ajam.
Her death came months after District Six land claimants, most of them elderly, fighting for restitution since the advent of democracy in South Africa, were closer than ever to receiving houses in the historic area they were forcibly removed from during apartheid.
In November, the Western Cape High Court ordered the Minister of Rural Development and Land Reform to formulate a plan to speed up the restitution process within three months.
The slow pace of the government’s restitution process landed in court after the District Six Working Committee filed an application wanting the state to account for allegedly breaching its constitutional obligation by not providing restitution to more than 1 000 District Six claimants.