Claimants dying off before ever returning to District Six

Around 108 District 6 claimants are still waiting for the keys to their new homes as restitution process woes continue. Photographer: Armand Hough/African News Agency(ANA)

Around 108 District 6 claimants are still waiting for the keys to their new homes as restitution process woes continue. Photographer: Armand Hough/African News Agency(ANA)

Published Nov 28, 2021


TWENTY-six years later and District 6 claimants land restitution is frustrated by endless red tape and empty promises.

Loss of documentation, lack of communication, disputes over claim dates and who benefits when a claimant dies, dominated the list of frustrations highlighted by claimants who spoke out about their frustration over the land restitution process this week.

The Western Cape Legislature’s standing committee on human settlements heard oral submissions on behalf of and by claimants.

The latest delay is the prolonged wait is over the handing over of 108 homes to claimants from the phase three development. They were shown the ‘ready-to-move in’ homes in June following a visit by Minister of Agriculture, Land Reform and Rural Development, Thoko Didiza.

One of the frustrate claimants Ebrahim Mohamed said they were being made fools of. He expected to move in to his home six months ago but has heard nothing but excuses.

“I call the department at least once a week ever since June and I have not once received an answer to say when we will move in,” he said.

“The reasons they are citing is that the City, which is meant to issue occupation certificates, has not issued them. There was a snag because of heavy winter rains, they had to fix up some things but that was six months ago. No one can tell us that it takes six months to fix a snags to get people to move in.

“Kicked out of our homes in 1972, we suffered such humiliation and pain and we are made to suffer again and made to feel like fools.

“Are they waiting for people to die, why is there no sense of urgency from the part of the department? We are being treated with no dignity, (rather) with the attitude that you are getting your house for free and you will get it when you get it. We have waited 26 years and nobody is telling the real reason why.”

Shambonisa Davids, 42, speaking on behalf of her mother Shamila Davids, 79, said having submitted their claims in 2014, she was worried her mother might never get her home if older claims were taking decades to finalise.

“My concern is, if they are still dealing with the 1998 people, the next phase will probably deal with the other claimants. But if these people are waiting so many years, I don't know how long my mother will wait for her house because she is nearly 80, will she even be alive by then?” asked Davids.

Melvin September, whose mother died before her claim could be finalised said beneficiaries of deceased claimants were being “placed at the back of the line”.

September said their claim process began in 1996 and was formally registered in 1998, but the death of her mother put the family back to square one.

“My mom passed on and I was told I am now a new claimant, therefore I have no news from them. I have attended every single meeting and the only thing I enjoyed was the food. The submissions we are making here are ones we make at every single meeting,” he said.

The department’s spokesperson Reggie Ngcobo said the issue around what happens to the claim of a deceased claimant depended on whether the parent had a will. The Restitution Act makes it clear that direct descendants can be substituted as claimants if there was no will.

September said claimants were tired of hearing about the disputes between the national and provincial government.

“We expect you to fight for us ... we go backwards and forward. If there is a problem with the claim, this committee must handle it,” he said.

“It is sick that we must come here and spend our time and the feedback we get is: ‘we are fighting with the national (government).’”

The ANC’s Pat Marran called out the national government for failing to properly handle the District 6 matter.

“The national department of rural development, when it comes to this specific matter, have failed claimants. There is no way that you have submitted your claim prior to the cut off date of December 31, 1998 and you are still waiting for a house,” he said.

Good Party’s Brett Herron said the restitution process was flawed.

“We can go around and round hearing about these complaints and they are not new, we have known about them for the last two decades and there is something seriously wrong in the structure of this land restitution process,” he said.

The City’s Malusi Booi called on Premier Alan Winde to raise the matter with President Cyril Ramaphosa.