Yet more disappointment for District Six claimants as ‘safety hazards’ delay long-awaited return
As 2022 kicks off, claimants from District Six are still in the dark about when they can return to their beloved area. The latest delay concerns the issuing of occupancy certificates, which means the claimants cannot move into their new units.
The City of Cape Town says occupancy certificates for housing units built for Phase 3 of the District Six redevelopment cannot be issued fully yet due to safety concerns.
The Department of Agriculture, Land Reform and Rural Development has built 108 housing units in District Six so claimants can move back to the area from which they were removed under the Group Areas Act. In November 2018 at the Land Claims Court, Judge Jody Kollapen granted the District Six Working Committee a structural interdict, forcing the department (then the Department of Rural Development and Land Reform) to provide a plan and programme – with timelines and specific outlines – for costs and layouts for the redevelopment of District Six. In addition, the department needed to submit a progress plan to the court every three months.
In its latest submission to the court at the end of December, the department said occupancy certificates were due to be issued by the City, but “concerns around inconsistent riser heights and balustrades are preventing the municipality from issuing full occupancy certificates, as these defects are considered to be safety hazards”.
Deputy mayor and mayoral committee member for spatial planning and environment Eddie Andrews confirmed this to Daily Maverick. In response to questions, Andrews explained that “an occupancy certificate can only be issued when all work is in compliance with the approved plans and the National Building Regulations”.
Andrews said all plans have been approved by the City, but some elements do not conform to the National Building Regulations. This “poses a danger to life”. However, the City had issued “permission to use” certificates for the majority of applications for units. In court papers, the department said these were issued on condition that all staircases and handrails are rectified or accounted for. The certificate is valid for 12 months, during which the defects must be rectified by the contractor. Andrews said work on the site by the department’s contractor has not yet been corrected.
The delay in fixing the defects and issuing the required certificates is the latest setback for District Six land claimants who opted for land restitution instead of financial compensation. The claimants, many of whom are elderly, have asked when they can return to District Six. In November 2021, before the Western Cape legislature, their children also questioned when their parents could move back to their beloved area.
A week later, the department told Parliament that out of 108 claimants contacted for the units, only 88 have accepted dwellings, while another 20 units have not yet been taken due to family dissension. DM