Bulldozers and lorries continue clearing operations in District Six as St Mark's Church stands forlornly in the background. The government plans to build a multi-million rand technikon for whites on the site, but the Anglican church, which owns the building, refuses to budge.
Bulldozers and lorries continue clearing operations in District Six as St Mark's Church stands forlornly in the background. The government plans to build a multi-million rand technikon for whites on the site, but the Anglican church, which owns the building, refuses to budge.

District 6 Phase 3 reduced, delayed

By Helen Bamford Time of article published Feb 8, 2016

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Cape Town - The Department of Rural Development and Land Reform plans to build 108 residential apartments in the next phase of the redevelopment of District Six - a third of what was promised in 2014.

The development is also nearly two years behind schedule, and which beneficiaries will occupy the flats has yet to be decided.

Claimants have been waiting almost two decades for restitution but the redevelopment has been beset by delays.

This Thursday marks the 50-year commemoration of District Six being declared a whites-only area by the apartheid government on February 11, 1966.

In 2011, President Jacob Zuma set the deadline for more than 2 600 claimants to return to the area by 2014. But so far just 139 units have been built - 24 in the first phase and 115 units in the second.

Western Cape Department of Rural Development and Land Reform spokesman Vuyani Nkasayi said they were building according to their available budget in this financial year.

He said 108 flats would be built and that it was envisaged that Phase 3 would be completed by the end of next February.

There were two sites for Phase 3 and the 108 flats would be built on the first.

He added there were still around 1 027 claims to be finalised.

“We are still working out who the beneficiaries will be and are consulting with the various structures in District Six,” he said.

Nkasayi attributed the delays to negotiations with the various roleplayers and “administrative processes”.

The District Six Beneficiary Trust was responsible for the construction of units in the first two phases but the Department of Rural Development and Land Reform has been tasked with the third phase, which was supposed to have been fast-tracked.

Reports at the time said some R700 million had been set aside for the development.

In March 2014, Minister of Rural Development and Land Reform Gugile Nkwinti told a report-back meeting of around 1 000 District Six claimants that building would start within a few weeks on Phase 3.

He told an audience that old people would be prioritised and they hoped to have them back in District Six for Christmas.

Two months later, Nkwinti led a sod-turning ceremony for Phase 3 but, since then, progress has been slow.

Shahied Ajam, chairman of the District Six Working Committee, said people were getting so frustrated they had talked of occupying the land.

He said people who had put in land claims between 1995 and 1998 and who had validated reference numbers, had no idea who was on the list for Phase 3.

“People want to know how much longer they must wait. They are tired of being taken for a joke,” said Ajam.

He said the working committee would like to see all developments, including the proposed Phase 3, stopped until District Six was declared a heritage site.

“The government should take the time to fast-track the verification and validation of all claimants who registered as from July 2014 - as well as consult all claimants and start to work out compensation packages that are equitable and just for every individual claimant (and their families) as a means to holistically restore people’s dignity,” he said.

Ajam added that the city council and the Cape Peninsula University of Technology should stop “selling and buying” land in District Six.

“The whole idea of restitution in District Six is about densification and not commercialisation,” he said.

Last week, District Six Museum director Bonita Bennett said they had been involved in assisting with research for the declaration of District Six as a national heritage site, which was submitted to the government through the SA Heritage Resources Agency (Sahra) and approved provisionally in 2006.

But she said she later learnt that Sahra had let the provisional protection lapse.

Sahra spokesman Thomas Khakhu said there were plans to declare District Six a National Heritage site by the end of the year, “once the discussion phase and resolutions around the renaming and introduction of the palimpsest (a layering of different histories, memories and realities) have been resolved”.

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Cape Argus

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