A Muslim family forcefully removed from Constantia during the apartheid years can finally raise its collective head now that justice has prevailed. The Solomon family, under the Haji Ismael Solomon Family Trust, has established a shopping centre called the Constantia Emporium on newly restituted land in the Constantia area. The achievement is significant as it marks a shift not only in the family’s lives, but also in the changing levels of inclusion in the city of Cape Town. Thousands of black families were forcefully removed from areas such as Constantia during the Apartheid years and this is one success story showing that justice can prevail in the new South Africa.
“This issue has been ongoing for the past 24 years and we’ve now reached the achievement of developing our land,” said Rashaad Solomon, the founder of the Solomon Family Trust and the man who initiated the claim process for the land on behalf of the family.
The family purchased the Constantia land in the year 1902 with the intention of building a home for their future families and of creating a livelihood. They were then eventually forcefully removed during in 1960 upon instruction that the area was to be reserved as “whites only”. The Solomon family was given five years to sell their house and relocate to one of the designated areas for blacks but upon refusal, they were forced off the land and the family house was destroyed.
The development of the centre also faced numerous objections by the Constantia Ratepayers’ and Residents’ Association (CRRA). The association took the Solomon Family Trust to court last year, arguing that the shopping centre did not suit the area.
“We persevered with trust and belief to reclaim the land that was once our home. The challenges of the process allowed the relatives to come together, share our knowledge, skills and strengthen our family bonds that were destroyed by the apartheid regime. This development marks a historical quest for all families and communities in South Africa. We thank all stakeholders who assisted our family to achieve this, Alhamdullilah.”
Solomon explained that the family’s Islamic values granted them the perseverance, strength and determination to fight for their justice.
With the changing political landscape in 1994, the Solomon family immediately submitted a claim for their long-lost land in Constantia.
The Solomon family is excited about their new development and have hinted at the centre adopting international concepts which will be ‘the first of its kind’ in South Africa.
“This emporium is based on an international concept – it’s the first in South Africa…people will be very surprised and they need to visit the emporium, shopping will be another experience for them,” he said.
Solomon says the emporium is going to be “very upmarket and world-class” and that the experience will be different to other shopping centres in the country.
Conveying a message of hope, he says all the families still fighting for their land must never give up and need to pray, asking Allah for help. The reunification of the family, however, is regarded as their ultimate achievement through the entire restitution process.
“A family that was dispersed all over the Cape Flats has been brought together,” said Solomon.