Land restitution claimant decries long struggle
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Cape Town - Forty-seven years ago, Gamat Allie Abdurrahman’s father was forced to sell his Claremont home and told to move to Grassy Park because of the law many call the “biggest sin of apartheid”.
These days, Abdurrahman, 68, says it still breaks him when he thinks about his father’s hard work “taken away from him by the stroke of a pen”.
In commemorating the centenary of the Natives Land Act of 1913 on Monday, Abdurrahman was one of many land restitution claimants at the city’s event in Claremont who spoke of how their families were forced to move out of areas declared to be for whites only.
Abdurrahman’s father bought their home in 1948 where he, his six siblings and their parents enjoyed the comforts of the well-serviced area.
Abdurrahman said apartheid government officials visited their home one day and told his father: “You have to leave and sell your house, this area is for whites only.”
He left within six months, sold his house for R20 000 and moved to Grassy Park where Abdurrahman still lives.
“We went from a place where we had nice trees, roads and sidewalks to Grassy Park, where we had gravel roads and used bucket toilets.”
Abdurrahman said he was still fighting to finalise his restitution claim for a plot of land 18 years after the claim had been verified.
Wednesday marks 100 years since the government passed the Natives Land Act. The law created reserves for black people and barred the sale of white territory to black people. Effectively more than 80 percent of the country’s land went to white people.
Abdurrahman said: “Who is going to give back my Claremont house? It is probably worth R2 million now and I can’t afford that, but it belongs to us and this government has not done their work in getting the house back to us.”
He said Monday’s event with mayor Patricia de Lille and Premier Helen Zille as the key speakers seemed to be a platform “for someone looking for political points”.
Addressing the crowd on Monday, De Lille said: “Most of you have filed land claims in the interests of claiming what was unjustly taken from your families.
“While many of you have seen some resolution, many still bear the pain of waiting for a long-sought sense of justice and closure.”
De Lille said while land reform was not a local government function, the city had been driving redress and reconciliation. The city had completed several restitution claims including in Somerset West, Simon’s Town, Bishopscourt and Constantia.
In Diep River, the city handed over 23 agreements of sale for the transfer of ownership to tenants of city-owned housing.
De Lille said the city also released land in Claremont to the regional Land Claims Commission for the restitution of 60 claimants.
Zille said many of the beneficiaries of land restitution processes had experienced suffering and loss which the act imposed on innocent people.