From the news desk

Family reclaims farm over 50 years after forced sale

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wenty years after lodging a claim for six hectares of land her father was forced to sell under the Group Areas Act, an emotional Juanita Solomon walked proudly on the sandy plot after it was returned to her family.

“I am standing here today with so many mixed emotions on the soil of the farm my parents bought when I was 6-weeks-old,” Solomon, 73, said on Thursday, when Mayor Patricia de Lille released the property in Retreat.

“It was hills and valleys where my daddy toiled after a full day’s work until midnight. My mommy told us that every night after his dinner he would go into the hills, and on this we eventually farmed.”

In the 1940s, flowers and vegetables grew on the land while chickens, cattle and horses ran on the fields, she said.

This was until her father, Isaac, was forced to sell the land in 1961 after that part of Retreat was named a whites-only area.

After the death of her parents in the early 1990s, she took a modest file containing her parents’ documentation and lodged a claim. Red tape and endless paperwork resulted in her waiting two decades for the land to be released.

She took the matter to De Lille, whose office handled the claim on her behalf.

“And 1, 2, 3 – this is what we are witnessing today,” Solomon said.

The six acres had a municipal value of R5.6m, De Lille said. While the City of Cape Town was legally entitled to keep it, the council believed the land was never its to begin with.

“She has lived in this area for more than seven decades, spending the last five decades only three streets away from the land she once knew as her home. Only now is her journey finally coming to an end,” she said.

“At the current rate of restitution, many claimants will not live to see the justice in their lifetime. They will not live to see the return of land which rightfully belongs to them. Too many have been waiting for too long.”

Solomon was adamant that the land would not be sold and her whole family would stay on it.

De Lille said the City would support and prioritise their building plans once they had been submitted. They would get a 10-year property rates holiday from the date the property was transferred into the family’s name. News24

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