Painful District Six land claims logjam
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THOUSANDS of people are still in the dark regarding the status of their land restitution claims in District Six.
This was revealed at a meeting in Salt River, where more than 1 000 District Six land claimants gathered at the weekend to express dismay at the Land Claims Commission.
The land claimants have been waiting almost two decades to receive restitution for land lost and for the forcible evictions during apartheid.
There are 1 135 families who are still awaiting compensation despite a February 2014 deadline set by President Jacob Zuma. They met the District Six Working Committee (DSWC) on Saturday.
The Department of Rural Development and Land Reform is dealing with phase three of the claims – the 1 135 families who lodged claims between 1995 and 1998.
At present, the department is handling about 8 000 unsettled claims from a total of 18 000 across the Western Cape.
The department is finalising its preparations to start phase three of District Six’s redevelopment project and still expects to deal with thousands of claims.
There have been close to 2 500 validated claims, with about 1 200 claimants opting for financial compensation and the rest for redevelopment.
According to the committee’s chairperson, Shahied Ajam, 3 000 claimants are members of the DSWC.
“The people are really gatvol (fed up). People have been waiting since this process started in 1994,” he said.
“There is a desperate need to speed up the claims process.”
Ajam said many elderly claimants had been waiting nearly 20 years for restitution.
“What is happening to these people is unconstitutional. They were promised restitution, but there is no restitution in sight for them when people who applied after them have been accommodated already. This inequity needs to be urgently addressed,” he said.
Shariefa Khan, 94, who lives in Rylands, applied for restitution in 1998 when she was 77. Her claim has not been resolved.
Cyril, 91, and Katherine Wagner, 92, who now live in Elsies River, have not had any results with their claim since lodging it in 1998.
“Sixty thousand people were forced out of their homes. How much more abuse and empty promises do they still have to take? As fellow South Africans, as fellow humans, can we stand by and watch this happen? We have to pick up this fight with them, because believe me they have not given up hope yet,” Ajam said.
The DSWC is calling on the government to fast-track the validation and verification process at the Land Claims office. The committee also wants the government to stop development in District Six until such time that equitable solutions have been found for claimants.
Chief Land Claims commissioner Nomfundo Gobodo said: “The commission acknowledges that the families are frustrated, but we are doing everything in our power to make sure their needs are met.”
Gobodo said the process was complex. “There had been lots of issues related to false claims, claimants not going through the proper procedures and the community fighting among each other.
“We must all work together, and although there are obstacles, the positive thing is that the DSWC is highlighting these concerns to ensure that we are all on the same page.”