The battle for promised land is stepped up
Claimants prepare to take on the Department of Rural Development and Land Reform to the Land Claims Court for a hearing in three months' time to ask for a court order that compels the government to come up with a detailed plan to address their failure to provide restitution.
This also comes after a falling out between the standing committee on human settlements and the department over the development of the 42 hectares of land in District Six - with the committee stating that it had reached an agreement with the department to transfer funds to the provincial department, which would become the implementing agent for the building of houses in the area. But the national department denied such an agreement.
Committee chairperson Mathlodi Maseko said she understood the deal still stood.
She said they would invite Minister Maite Nkoana-Mashabane to appear before the committee to account.
Yesterday, the claimants met their legal representatives to go over the status of the case before the hearing, set to take place in November.
Irate community members said it was upsetting that the government was holding discussions on the issue without consulting them first.
One of the claimants, Asila Alie, 74, said they no longer had faith in any sphere of government to handle this. “We are feeling very positive about the court case. Previously people were going to the Land Claims Court by themselves and we never got satisfactory answers. We don’t trust the government any more,” she said.
“The sad thing about this is that a lot of the claimants are dying and so are their children. By the time this is sorted out, it could be that it (will be) third- or fourth-generation claimants who finally see the ‘promised land'.”
In their application, the claimants want a declaratory order that details government's failure to provide restitution to those who lodged valid claims by December 1998, and that failure constitutes a violation of the rights of claimants.
They want the court to direct the minister to come up with a plan in consultation with the community of District Six that will provide a layout for the development of the area, details on the number of residential units to be allocated to claimants, how the plan will be funded as well as budget allocations and time frames in terms of implantations of these plants.
They are asking that the government be compelled to report to the court every three months on the progress of the implementation of the plans.
Nicki van’t Riet, director at Norton Rose, the law firm representing the claimants, said although the government had missed several deadlines to submit their answering papers and would now have to answer to the court for this, they anticipate that the dates set down for the hearing will proceed.
“We have spoken to the state attorney and he has promised me that the answering papers will be filed by next Friday.
"Those papers have been drafted and are currently sitting with their advocates. Once we have those papers, we will have 10 days to reply to them. What we are expecting are factual steps the government has taken in the last 20 years in order to fulfil its obligation. We are looking forward to getting their version of the story.
“November 22 to 30 is the date set down for the hearing. It's likely we will choose one day for the hearing.
“I truly feel like we are on track to achieve our desired result, which is to get a plan of action in place and to oversee a timeous implementation of that plan so that people don’t have to wait another 60 years for restitution.”