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Families overjoyed at return to Protea Village Western Cape

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A nonagenarian land claimant struggled to hold back her tears as she realised that she and her family would soon move back to the land they were once forcibly removed from by the apartheid government.

Katy Sasman, 90, is one of 86 claimants who have been embroiled in a lengthy battle to reclaim Protea Village near Kirstenbosch National National Botanical Garden.

She said she was happy that things had finally come to a “wonderful end” and could not wait to move back home.

“I am too excited to speak but all I can say is when I come here I feel at home, Protea Village is my home and we have now got it back,” she said.

On Saturday, the group gathered at the Stone Cottages across from the Anglican Church of the Good Shepherd-Protea on Rhodes Drive for the official signing of the development management agreement.

Evicted under the Group Areas Act over five decades ago, the group is now a step closer to moving back to the land they have spent 21 years fighting for.

Emotions ran high as memories of time spent at the school, church and water springs were shared.

Huilbrecht Lewin, 63, recalled feelings of heartache and pain when her family was moved to Retreat when she was only seven years old.

Lewin told Weekend Argus that her aunt lived in the very cottage that the agreement was signed in.

She died on the night they were moved.

“It has been a long struggle but it has been worth it because now here we are, we are getting our homes back.

“It has been a long 21 years but now we are feeling joyous and excited.

“It may take about five or six years before we can get the new cottages, but we have waited this long and we can wait a little bit longer,” said the overjoyed woman.

Another claimant, Wilfred Smith, spoke of how “close” the community used to be, while also remembering walks to a nearby spring to fetch water.

“We didn’t have any electricity or water at the time so we would have to go fetch water from the springs just over the field and wood for the stove and fireplace. It was tough but we were all very close, the community was like one big happy family and everybody knew everybody else in Protea Village,” Smith said.

Smith, who now lives in Lansdowne, said the removal was heartbreaking.

“It was very hard to adapt to living in Lansdowne and I would come back to Protea Village often because it was where I felt at home”.

There were originally 130 claimants for land restitution for Protea Village.

However, 56 have since opted for financial settlements of R175 000 each.

It was previously reported that the claimants had successfully fended off two legal challenges from residents’ associations.

In 2009 Bishopscourt and Fernwood residents, led by prominent Cape Town attorney William Booth, attempted to have the restitution deal which was signed in 2006 nullified, but failed.

A second attempt, which also failed, was in 2011 when the residents tried to appeal the ruling to donate the land to the claimants.

Developer Daniel Filippi said the signing of the agreement was the first step of a very lengthy but inclusive process.

He said it could take up to four years to complete the development.

[Source: Sunday Argus]

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