Despite very little progress in the District Six land claims process, it seems there may be a glimmer of hope for claimants. On Thursday, the District Six Working Committee (D6WC) announced it will host a public meeting with beneficiaries, who have who have been patiently waiting for some breakthrough in the 21 year quest for restitution post-apartheid.
More than 60 000 people were evicted from their homes and businesses, after the apartheid regime declared District Six a whites-only area under the Group Areas Act in the 1960’s. Since the first window period opened for land claims in 1995, a meagre 135 homes have been built in the area. With continuous development over the past decades, only 42 hectares of land remains available for restitution.
According to the D6WC chairperson Shahied Ajam, following talks with government officials, it was decided that claimants who lodged claims from July 2014 will now be included in the same process as those who registered between 1995 and 1998. Whether this will create a greater backlog is uncertain. The committee will now meet with the City of Cape Town, the Department of Rural Development and Land Reform and the D6 Reference group to work on a new plan to fit in the thousands of people who want restitution, as well those claiming for monetary compensation.
“We know the 42 hectares will not be sufficient if one take into account that apart from the apartment buildings, that we envisage to build, we must also look at alternative land in the city periphery. We have also identified pockets of land that can also be used for restitution purposes,” he explained.
“It does not mean that everyone can come back to District Six. As long as you live in the city, that’s the point. The more people we can get out of the townships and back to the places they originally come from, that would be best.”
By the end of August, a notice will be posted in the Government Gazette to inform the public that former D6 residents will have six months to institute claims for restitution. Ajam said they were trying to get as many people interested in claiming for restitution given the fact that there is limited space in the historic area.
“We need to establish how many people want to come back so that the new design plans can accommodate for these people afterward. We can look for alternate land should there be excess claimants.”
Ajam said it has taken the committee three years to establish itself and get some movement going in the drawn out restitution process. Despite the criticism, they remain focused on the “bigger picture”.
“Our members must really give themselves credit as government has recognised the work of the Working Committee…this is restitution in its truest form.”
The meeting will take place on Saturday 23rd July at 10am at the Blackpool Sports complex in Shelley street Salt River. Ajam urged the public to come early as new members will be signed up and registration recorded. VOC