President Jacob Zuma laid his head on the block over District Six, guaranteeing that development in the area will be completed in the next three years.
“The time is 36 months. Everything will be done and nobody can change that,” he said to huge applause.
Zuma was speaking at the District Six “Second Homecoming” celebration held at the Moravian Church yesterday where 44 returning families were handed the keys to their new homes.
It was a symbolic handover though. Families will not move in immediately because work on the houses is not finished.
The event began two hours late, while some elderly participants waited in wheelchairs in the blazing sun as dignatories enjoyed refreshments in the church hall.
Recipient Esther Cottle, 68, who has been staying in Lentegeur, said she still had to organise a bond of R225 000. As a widow and a pensioner she said she was not sure she would qualify for one, but was excited at the prospect of moving back.
“I really thought it would never happen. I was so shocked when I heard I would be getting keys but we are still waiting to hear about the nitty gritty from the District Six Beneficiary Trust.”
Both Cottle and Helene Paulse, who is the recipient of her father’s claim, have retained strong ties to District Six by attending St Marks Church every Sunday since they were forcibly removed.
A number of disappointed claimants also attended the event in the hope that they would make the next cut.
One of them was Mogamat Yusuf Davids of Bothasig, who was born next to the mosque 70 years ago.
Charmaine Bailey, who lodged her claim in 1996, said she was not sure how the trust chose people as she had been on a list in 2006. Her mother was 81 and they were battling to find out when the next phase of development would start.
Only 68 houses have been built since 2000.
Phase two was supposed to include 114 units but only 44 were handed over yesterday.
Minister of Rural Development and Land Reform Gugile Nkwinti said that the remainder would be ready in three to four months and that the necessary funds would be made available.
He said that phase three would be an integrated social and economic development.
Judge Siraj Desai said private developers had been eyeing District Six since 1979 but that a campaign had been launched to prevent this.
He lauded Dr Anwah Nagia, chairman of the trust, for sustaining the campaign.
“For 32 years his mission was to preserve District Six for development for the people of District Six.”
Minister in the Presidency for planning Trevor Manuel echoed the sentiments of a woman calling from the audience who said: “ Ons wag te lank.(We’ve waited too long). Let’s get on with this thing.” He told Zuma: “Tell your ministers to sign new agreements to hurry up with District Six.”
A group of Rastas from Hout Bay gathered to chant “restore Hout Bay” and were moved by police.
Also present was Minister of Human Settlements Tokyo Sexwale, Western Cape Minister for Social Development Patricia de Lille and the deputy mayor of Cape Town Ian Nielsen.