By Wardah Wilkinson
The Department of Rural Development and Land Reform appeared in front of the Western Cape Standing Committee on Human Settlements on Wednesday to answer questions relating to current status of Phase 3 of the District Six restitution process, which has reached a standstill. Since the sod-turning for phase 3 in 2014, only 139 units have been completed and a further 108 residential units are still under construction. 1062 claimants are still awaiting allocation of homes.
Due to Minister of Rural Development and Land reform, Maite Nkoana-Mashabane’s absence from the Provincial Standing Committee for the second time, the department was unable to give an account on the money that was spent to pay Fikile Construction, the construction company given the tender for the project. Phase 3, which started in May 2016, had to be completed by July 2018 but has been delayed due to the company neglecting their mandate to meet the deadline for construction.
“I call on the National Department to speed up their process of verifying the existing work done by Fikile Construction, especially as phase 3, which started in May 2016, ought to be completed by July 2018. Once that process has been finalised, a new specification, bill of quantities and draft tender documents, should also be instilled. Thereafter, the Department must draft a new tender process and make the timelines available to claimants and the public,” said the Chairperson of the Standing Committee on Human Settlements Matlhodi Maseko.
Maseko said the treatment that District Six claimants have received from the government is uncalled for and should not be acceptable.
“Former President Jacob Zuma promised that by 2014, all claimants would be returned to District Six and R700 million would be allocated to its completion. However, the total budget approved for District Six is nearly R333.4 million and the remaining funding available is over R153 million; which includes the costs to complete Phase 3 of the project,” said Maseko.
The department claims they are trying to resolve the delay, yet they unable to give a deadline to have the matter resolved. At the meeting, department officials were not able to give a transparent account as to how the R333 million was spent and how the remaining R153 million would be allocated.
The regional Land Claims Commissioner Wayne Alexander explained that the Department of Rural Development and Land Reform is currently the development manager for Phase 3, co-ordinating the development of 1108 units for the eligible beneficiaries.
He confirmed that building of the structures commenced in 2015 and the whole project was anticipated to be completed in July 2018. However, the contract with Fikile Construction, the building contractors for Pilot Phase 3, was terminated on the 17 November 2017 as result of its “failure to comply with its expected legal obligations as per the construction contract and work schedule.”
The department has also blamed various groups of interested parties claiming to represent District Six for adding to the delay in the restitution process. Officials also shifting blame to the District Six Beneficiary Trust, which it claims had to be dissolved due to the Trust requesting R250 000 from the claimants to complete the restitution process. This caused frustration amongst the claimant community.
Currently the District Six Working Committee, which is representing the old and new claimants of 1998 and between 2014-2016 has taken the Department of Rural Development, the Minister, the City of Cape Town and the Provincial Government to court over its alleged failure to fast-track the process.
The ANC Chairperson of the Standing Committee on Human Settlements Sharon Davids said while she understands the frustrations of claimants, she too believes factionalism in District Six is a major setback.
“I think the community within District Six needs to be formed and they need to decide on a way forward. Government has a plan in place, but the different committees are contesting each other. The construction company whose tender was ended needs to be investigated, and everyone should work together and that will fast track the plan,” said Davids.
The standing committee will be meeting on the 21 August for feedback on the current process and delays, while MPPs hope that the minster will be in attendance.
Wednesday marked the 105 Anniversary of the Native Land Act of 1913, which was the foundation of the forced removals of the racially discriminated laws during the apartheid era. The Restitution of Land Rights Act 22 of 1994 was implemented to restitute former District Six residents, who were forcefully removed to the outskirts of the Cape Flats, back to their original homes. When the application closed on the 31 December 1998, 2760 families made an application. To date, the majority of residents who previously lived in the multi-cultural area which once was the heart of the city, are now decreased.
With their homes now vacant land, the Cape Peninsula University of Technology (CPUT) premises is currently occupying the space and more private developments are being constructed in the area, makes returning to the historical area only a dream. VOC