By Anees Teladia
“The Minister of Rural Development who was responsible for delivering the plan to the court is [should be] rendered in contempt of court.” These were the words of District Six Working Committee (D6WC) chairperson, Shahied Ajam, as he announced a decision to take legal action against Rural Development and Land Reform Minister Maite Nkoana-Mashabane, for the department’s alleged failure to provide a clear plan for restitution.
The D6WC has been struggling for years to successfully transform and revitalise the District Six community. After the failure of government to submit conceptual plans and a program of action to court on the 26th February 2019, it said it has no choice but to hold the minister responsible.
“They have had over twenty years to attend to this [District Six] and they did not,” said Ajam.
In the Western Cape High Court on the 26 November 2018, Judge Jody Kollapen ordered that a holistic plan to redevelop District Six be produced within a period of 3 months. He declared that the South African government had violated the claimants’ constitutional rights by not providing adequate restitution. The Judge ordered the government to present a viable and sustainable development framework for District Six, supported by a dedicated budget, source of funding, specified time frames and envisaged milestones by 26 February 2019.
In another significant development last week, Judge Kollapen granted the D6WC claimants a declaratory order, forcing the Department to deliver on its promises of restitution. Judge Kollapen said the fact that the majority of claimants are still waiting for restitution means that government is “in breach of their constitutional obligations and that such a breach constitutes a violation of the rights of claimants.”
Ajam expressed frustration at the lack of progress being made and shed light on the reasons why government would not be quick to complete the project.
“If one has regard to the fact that they [government] need more than R11 billion to finish District Six, to finish the entire 42 hectares, it would take them over twenty years because where do they get the money…the budget nationally for restitution is only R2 billion this year,” said Ajam.
“That is the reason why they say it will take more than twenty years. That is the injustice.”
Ajam explained why the D6WC has taken action against government in this regard.
“We have taken government, the Minister and national commission to court in a class action suit.”
“If we are going to leave the task to government alone to finish District Six, it will never be completed,” said Ajam.
Ajam then offered a way forward for the District Six initiative and commented on the D6WC’s vision for the community.
“If we involve the private sector, houses will be built very soon,” said Ajam.
“We intend to turn District Six into a jewel of tourism in South Africa. That’s how District Six will become alive and socially integrated with racial harmony. People must stand together.”
The D6WC is yet to receive an official court date but they do expect one soon.
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