Mabuza promises housing for District Six claimants within three years
Government officials say housing units for District Six land claimants will be completed in three years - if not earlier.
Before a high-level entourage visit on Tuesday, land claimants from District Six raised several concerns about when they would be able to move back to their beloved area – as some former residents have died waiting for restitution.
“I came out of my sick bed to be here,” said 80-year-old Juliegah Cooper as she addressed government officials led by Deputy President David Mabuza on Tuesday, 22 March, at a meeting about the redevelopment of District Six.
Cooper is a land claimant from District Six, a once multicultural hub in Cape Town’s inner city. Under the apartheid regime’s Group Areas Act, the area was declared “Whites Only” and about 60,000 people were forcibly moved to areas such as Mitchells Plain, Langa, Manenberg and Hanover Park.
Cooper was moved to Mitchells Plain.
Currently, a process brought on by land claimants via the Land Claims Court is forcing the government to ensure 108 housing units are built for claimants, many of them elderly.
On Tuesday, during a visit by the Interministerial Committee (IMC) on Agriculture and Land Reform, Cooper told the audience gathered at the Moravian church hall in District Six that she had been waiting for more than 20 years to move back to the place she grew up in. Cooper said despite her being sick in bed, she needed to be at the meeting.
Ministers from the IMC were present, including Thoko Didiza (Agriculture, Land Reform and Rural Development), Patricia de Lille (Public Works and Infrastructure) and Mmamoloko Kubayi-Ngubane (Human Settlements). In attendance also were deputy ministers from the departments as well as City of Cape Town Mayor Geordin Hill-Lewis and his deputy, Eddie Andrews. The group was led by Mabuza, who chairs the committee.
Phase 3 of the redevelopment saw 108 units built for claimants, with 88 units already allocated, while 20 are delayed due to family disputes, according to the Department of Agriculture, Land Reform and Rural Development in November 2021.
While units have been completed, the City of Cape Town has issued occupancy certificates to the department on the condition that safety issues such as handrails and staircases be rectified within one year.
The group went for an oversight visit to catch up on progress on the redevelopment and watch some claimants sign papers to allow them to move back.
This oversight visit was followed by a session with the claimants at the Moravian Church in District Six. At the session, Cooper spoke: “I cannot walk up and down stairs.” She said this was due to a previous hip operation. Her son had to carry her up to the hill where the units were and into the church hall.
She told the deputy president: “I’m waiting 25 years to come home.”
Mabuza said he came to the area as a result of an invitation by Al Jama-ah MP Ganief Hendricks, who raised the plight of the residents in a parliamentary session. “You’re the person who caused this meeting to happen,” said Mabuza about Hendricks.
Following the questions by Hendricks and the invitation to the area, Mabuza decided to visit to see what Hendricks meant. Speaking to the claimants, the deputy president said “one day your dignity will be restored”.
During the session with the claimants, praises were sung of land claimants who died before they could return to their beloved area. A moment of silence was held for those who died, including District Six Beneficiary and Redevelopment Trust chairperson Dr Anwah Nagia, chairperson of the District Six Working Committee Shahied Ajam, the oldest claimant aunty Shariefa Khan and recently deceased Ghwa Wilkinson.
Addressing Cooper directly, the deputy president said “we heard you”.
After some of the claimants laid out various complaints about potential issues regarding elderly people having to walk up flights of stairs, long waits for restitution and past memories of people like Nagia and Ajam who helped fight for restitution, Mabuza responded: “You must allow the pain to be vented. It’s part of the healing process.”
Mabuza said the presence of himself and the other ministers was to “ensure this process moves faster”. He asked ministers to look into their upcoming budget allocations to see if there were funds available to speed up the process of restitution for the claimants.
Mabuza urged claimants of every group to work together as well as government spheres – including national and metro, which were present during the meeting to work together and focus on the claimants restitution “because some of us are getting old … some of us are crying”.
Mabuza would also add that he and the committee would be back in June to check on the progress of the redevelopment and, this time, he would bring the provincial government with him too.
The latest court update
During November 2018 in the Land Claims Court, Judge Jody Kollapen ordered the department to provide housing units for verified claimants from District Six. In his order, the department needs to provide a progress report to the court, every three months, on its redevelopment plans.
The latest submission to the court by the department was on 17 March 2022, which Daily Maverick has seen.
In the ninth report to the court, the department says the practical completion of Phase 3 should be done by 18 June 2022. To date, the department has spent R156-million on Phase 3’s development.
In the report, the department also spoke of the certification issue with the City of Cape Town. “The inspections and letters did not specify exact locations or instances where the City found non-compliances, and the team had to survey the entire site to identify potential areas of concern,” read the department’s court filing.
“The Contractor was then instructed to rectify these and spent the months of January and February 2022 doing so,” said the department’s court papers.
“The rectification work concluded at the end of February 2022, and the City inspectors were invited to reinspect the entire site, through a series of inspections between 21 February 2022 and 04 March 2022. Formal feedback on the outcome of these inspections has not yet been received from the municipality”.
The department said claimants were continually invited to view the show houses and “some family members are requesting another chance to view to make a final decision … Some dwellings were also allocated on humanitarian grounds, noting the diversity of the people who resided in District Six, destroyed by the draconian laws of apartheid. In keeping with policy, the Commission continues the verification of claimants in preparation of its allocation procedures for the ensuing phases.”
The department also said it is planning for the next phase of the redevelopment, which would see 149 units built in Phase 4, then 173 units in Phase 5 and then 145 units in Phase 6. DM