Read from Daily Maverick’s archives: District Six claimants ask court to force government to admit it failed them.
The District Six Working Committee and its lawyers say they are excited about the appointment of Thoko Didiza as the new Minister of Agriculture, Land Reform and Rural Development. At a meeting on Saturday 22 June 2019, claimants and their lawyers sat to discuss the new minister’s appointment and plans for a celebration of the reinstatement of the name of one of District Six’s most famous streets, Hanover Street, in September.
The appointment of Didiza, who returns to one of the most crucial departments amid the current political discourse, has been welcomed by both the District Six Working Committee and their lawyers from Norton Rose Fulbright.
Lawyer Laura Macfarlane said they were “quite excited” about the experienced Didiza’s return to the department, based on her previous role and expertise gathered in a stint as minister of Agriculture and Land Affairs between 1999 and 2006.
Committee chair Shahied Ajam said at the time of Didiza’s appointment to President Cyril Ramaphosa’s new Cabinet that it provided “a great opportunity for her to continue where she left off during her previous tenure as Minister of Land Affairs”.
“She comes in with a wealth of experience and that is what’s needed in District Six right now.”
Macfarlane referred to a court case where the committee had taken the Department of Land Reform and Rural Development, and specifically its former minister Maite Nkoana-Mashabane, to the Land Claims Court. The court found that the department and Nkoana-Mashabane had failed claimants in providing restitution, specifically the District Six claimants.
Macfarlane said while the case did not affect the new minister personally, Nkoana-Mashabane could still be found personally responsible by the Land Claims Court for the delay in restitution for District Six claimants.
The committee and claimants are awaiting a court date with Nkoana-Mashabane following her only appearance in court in May 2019. There are still 1,078 valid claimants from District Six who want to be moved back into the area, and many of them are elderly.
In 1966, the first forced removals began in District Six under the Group Areas Act of the apartheid regime. Those deemed African and coloured were forcibly removed from the cosmopolitan District Six as the area was declared a “whites only” area.
Families were dumped on to the Cape Flats in areas such as Hanover Park, Langa, Manenberg and later Mitchell’s Plain.
Ajam described this as a “racist proclamation”.
At Saturday’s meeting, it was revealed that one of District Six’s most iconic streets, Hanover Street, will officially be reinstated on Heritage Day. Hanover Street was the commercial hub which connected residents and businesses from District Six directly to the Cape Town CBD.
Following the forced removals and the rezoning of street grids, Hanover Street was renamed Keizersgracht, as it is still known today. On Heritage Day, it will be reinstated as Hanover Street, said Ajam. DM
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