By Tauhierah Salie
There were sounds of rejoice outside the Western cape High Court on Friday morning, as former Rural Development and Land Reform minister Maite Nkoana-Mashabane was ordered to pay a personal cost order. This after the District Six land Claimants sought to prove Mashabane had failed in her duties to present a sustainable restitution plan.
In court proceeding which lasted less than five minutes, Acting Judge Yasmin Meer, declared that the former minister failed to comply with a December court order to provide a suitable plan to have district six claimants return to their original homes.
in November last year, Judge Jody Kollapen ruled in the Land Claims Court, that the Department of Land Reform is required to provide detailed plans, timelines and budgets for the completion of housing for claimants.
Nkoana-Mashabane and her department missed the deadline for the redevelopment plans, which the court set for February.
Since then, no plan has come to fruition. In May, the District 6 Working Committee approached the court to have Mashabane declared in contempt to abide by the above ruling.
The minister and her department’s legal counsel, advocate Helen Ngomane, had then brought an application for postponement, citing a lack of sufficient time to prepare.
At the time, acting judge Tembeka Ngcukaitobi questioned why Mashabana was able to produce a 10-page application for a postponement, but not a response to the applicants’ founding affidavit of 12 pages.
Acting judge president of the Land Claims Court, Yasmin Meer, said Nkoana-Mashabane had been “grossly unreasonable” in settling her duties.
The department was found to have failed to comply with the order following what seems to have been miscommunication between those involved in creating the plan.
Meer said that the Mashabane was ‘grossly unreasonable’ in carrying out her constitutional duties.
Chairperson of the District Six Working Committee, Shahied Ajam, said it was a victory for the entire country.
“It is a watershed moment for the people of district six, as well as for the people of South Africa in that section 25 of the constitution is indeed working for everybody who was previously disposed and of land and marginalised.”
The department’s new head is now minister Thoko Didiza, who will be resume the duties of Mashabane. Ajam said the committee is looking forward to working with her.
“It means a chapter has been closed, in that the judgement was quite explicit. Everything that we asked for in our application- the declaratory order, the structural interdict, the fact that the minister was in contempt of court, the fact that she has to personally pay the cost… it means we can start on a fresh page with the new minister Ms Thoko Didiza that we can work with her and she should come to the table and add value to that table.”