Cape Town - The descendants of successful Constantia farmers forcibly removed from a thriving vegetable farm under apartheid, say they are disappointed by some of the negative public sentiment expressed about their plans to develop their stolen land.
Rashaad Solomon, the chairman of the Hadjie Abdullah Solomon Family Trust, said the comments in response to an online public poll were hurtful and did not take into consideration the pain and suffering of his forefathers.
“We’ve got a right to develop our land that was destroyed,” said Solomon. “People need to understand what happened here. This was the economic hub of the area,” he said.
“It went from an organic vegetable farm to a dumpsite.”
The Hadjie Abdullah Solomon Family Trust have submitted development plans to the City of Cape Town to allow the Shoprite Checkers Property Division to build a R250 million retail centre across two properties spanning 14 562m2 bounded by Kendal, Spaanschemat and Ladies Mile roads.
The other property belongs to the Hadji Ismail Solomon Family Trust and would be consolidated for the purpose of the development.
Checkers would be the major tenant leasing the land from the trusts for a twice renewable 10-year period.
But Solomon said some of the views expressed on the Facebook page of the Constantia Ratepayers’ and Residents’ Association (CRRA), showed disregard and disrespect for the family’s rights and bordered on racism.
“This is not a case of outsiders wanting to do things to this land. Our family is tied to this part of Cape Town. People need to understand what happened here. Nobody objected when the city made this a dump site.
“People don’t know what was there and they react to that.”
Born on what was then known as Sillery Farm, Solomon was 21 when he watched authorities bulldoze the 31 homes and buildings of his and other families who had worked the land since 1902.
“We want to bring back some dignity destroyed by a previous regime ... to create development here and give people jobs. They should be asking the previous land owners what should happen here.”
Solomon’s nephew and fellow trustee, Nasser Solomon, said his grandfather died of a stomach ulcer in 1966 when they were forced off the land, from the stress of losing his livelihood.
“People must be made aware of what’s happened. The public impression that has been created adds insult to the injustice that was done. It’s a very sensitive issue that’s intensely personal,” he said.
Nasser Solomon said the trust had considered various development options, but believed the current proposal was the best to develop fallow land that could no longer be farmed.
The family hopes that the income they will derive will allow them to build homes on other reclaimed property on the other side of Kendal Road, which formed part of the original Sillery Farm.
Objectors to the development plans say another retail development is not needed in the area, and that a Checkers was not in keeping with their living standards.
Others say they want to see development in keeping with the rural feel of the area, which the family has pledged to do.
Still, the Solomon family say they are prepared to continue engaging with the public on their development plans.
The trust and the property developer will meet with the CRRA on Tuesday to discuss matters related to the development.
“Nothing will happen without talking and engaging with people. We’ve been open about this from the get-go. People have their absolute right to lodge concerns and object,” said Nasser Solomon.