D6 claimants have mixed feelings about flats

The 108 two-bedroom flats and terraced houses in Hanover Street make up phase three of the District Six development.

District Six claimants are slowly moving into the 108 new homes in Hanover Street, but some are unhappy that, despite their advanced age and infirmities, they will have to climb stairs to reach their front doors.

Minister of the Department of Agriculture, Land Reform and Rural Development (DALRRD) Thoko Didiza has welcomed the return of the 108 claimants who started moving into their new homes in phases from the beginning of May.

The 108 two-bedroom flats and terraced houses in Hanover Street make up phase three of the District Six development.

The department’s spokesman, Reggie Ngcobo, did not respond to further questions from the Tatler, but he told IOL that 102 claimants were to be moved back to District Six by Wednesday May 25.

The department was still dealing with family disputes involving the remaining claimants, he said. “The disputes relate mainly to deceased estates. Once these have been resolved, the families will be able to move into their homes.”

Yusuf Khan, 81, has the keys for his new home, but he has yet to move in completely. With no lift in the complex, he has to climb a flight of stairs to reach his flat on the first floor, but he has hypertension and has had a knee operation. There is also a 100m incline to reach the complex.

“There must have been a miscommunication, as I would have preferred a ground floor,” he said, adding that he and his family would be raising the issue with DALRRD land claims officials.

Mr Khan, who worked in the dockyard for nearly 50 years, grew up in Albert Street, District Six, and later moved to Bloemhof Flats from where he was forcefully removed in the early 1980s. He, his late wife, Jochera, and the couple’s six children moved to Lentegeur, Mitchell’s Plain, where most of his family still stays.

It had been hard having to catch a train all the way from Mitchell’s Plain to get to his work at the dockyard, he said. His one daughter, who had worked as a machinist in Woodstock, and another daughter, who had attended school in District Six, had also had to travel far.

His daughter, Garonessa Slamang, said that when the family had lived in District Six, the children had walked to school and her father had walked to work.

Lentegeur, she added, had become unsafe in recent years. “It is not the best environment to raise children.”

Ms Slamang said her father had asked in advance for a ground-floor flat.

Mr Khan said he would feel like a prisoner in his flat as he would be unable to go anywhere.

Juleiga Cooper, 80, who has a second-floor flat, used to live in Thomas Street, but she and her family moved to Steenberg and later Lentegeur in the wake of the forced removals. She has siblings in Steenberg, Hanover Park and Manenberg.

“Everybody knew everyone in District Six – Christians and Muslims all got along well together,” she said of her time there.

Ms Cooper said she was grateful to be able to move back, but it would be hard going up and down the stairs as she had high blood pressure and had had open-heart surgery 20 years ago. “I will have to stay up there and get help from my son, Ashraeel Cooper, who will stay with me.”

Ms Cooper said she had been in meetings with the DALRRD land claims officials where they had assured many of the elderly residents that they would get ground-floor flats. “I have to be satisfied with this residence as I will have nowhere else to go,” she said.

District Six Working Committee chairwoman Zahrah Nordien said those who had problems with their units should take their complaints to the land claims officials.

Ms Nordien said 954 units would be built in the next phase of the District Six development, but construction would only start next year due to the impact of Covid-19.

Minister Didiza told claimants in a meeting at the end of March that the 954 units could be finished by the end of December (“More uncertainty for District Six claimants,” Southern Suburbs Tatler, March 31).

District Six claimant Yusuf Khan needs help from his nephew, Moegamat Amien, when climbing the stairs to his flat.
District Six claimant Juleiga Cooper outside Hanover Street complex where she will be staying.