Former District Six residents have reason to be optimistic as national, provincial and local government are working together to speed up the restitution process and start development of the area by the end of March.
More than 500 claimants gathered at the Castle of Good Hope on Saturday February 15, to commemorate the 54th anniversary of District Six being declared a white group area under apartheid’s Group Areas Act.
The event was also attended by the District Six Working Committee (D6WC), the legal team representing the claimants, the District Six Civic Association (D6CA), City of Cape Town officials, as well as members of the Department of Rural Development Land Reform (DRDLR) and Department of Public Works and Infrastructure (DPWI).
Director General for DRDLR, Mdu Shabane said their department had committed R1.4 billion as part of the plan that was submitted by Minister Thoko Didiza to the Western Cape High Court in December.
The planning document by Ms Didiza indicated that they want to start developing District Six by the end of November, with 954 units built in seven phases simultaneously to try and finish construction by the end 2023.
The units will be on approximately 13 hectares of land, which will leave another 13.9 hectares to be developed for other claimants and used for other public private partnership developments.
First preference for the units will be for those who claimed between 1995 and 1998.
D6WC chairperson, Shahied Ajam did say that those who claimed between 2014 and
2016 and beyond would also receive restitution and alternative housing as soon as the 954 houses were completed, and therefore “no-one would be left behind”.
Mr Shabane said they would keep their word and on Tuesday March 17 they will return to the Land Claims Court to submit their progress report.
“We will tell the court that we will start with rubble removal but they need to go through a process with the City because it is a heritage site,” he said.
Mr Shabana is hoping they can start with the rubble removal by the end of March.
DPWI Minister Patricia de Lille said her department would work with other spheres of
government to return the rest of the claimants to District Six.
“Our department’s role is to request to transfer 10 parcels of land to the Cape Peninsula University of Technology(CPUT) for their expansion,” she said.
Ms De Lille said they would ensure that CPUT in return transfers the other pieces of land they own where housing had already been constructed for the District Six community.
Mayor Dan Plato said the 54th commemoration of District Six being declared a white group area marked the day that many people were robbed of their sense of stability and pushed into the unknown.
“This day must not be forgotten so that these injustices will not be repeated,” he said.
The City’s mayoral committee member for spatial planning and environment, Marian Nieuwoudt said her department would be responsible for the underground infrastructure once the redevelopment of District Six begins.
Ms Nieuwoudt also said they want to establish public open spaces in District Six which can help build a community.
“We are also in discussion to set up a water-wise programme which should be done in accordance with the public open spaces,” she said.
Some District Six Claimants are feeling encouraged after seeing the different government departments sharing their plans.
Murieda Hajee, 75, from Mitchell’s Plain, had been waiting 24 years for restitution.
“I am feeling a little bit better now after hearing that we will be going back,” she said.
Gaironeesa Adamson, 70, from Hanover Park, stayed in Dakota Street, District Six, before the removals.
“I am feeling glad and positive for what is going on now,” she said.
Moegamat Edwards, 85, from Mitchell’s Plain said in the past he never really paid attention to the slow progress.
“Through the new management, D6WC has done a lot of work so my brother Ismail Edwards and I are paying more attention now,” he said.
Mr Ajam said he is encouraged that his organisation can work closely with all spheres of government.
Mr Ajam added that he was happy that Ms Didiza had followed the court order handed out by the Western Cape High Court in August which indicated that their former minister, Maite Nkoana-Mashabane had been negligent in failing to deliver a comprehensive plan for the redevelopment of District Six.
The public has until Monday March 2 to comment on the rubble removal process.
They can contact the South African Heritage Resource Agency on 021 462 4502 for details.
The City of Cape Town will also host an open information session and workshop on the design framework for District Six with claimants and stakeholders at the Civic Centre on Saturday March 21.