D6 land claimants urged to continue fight

The District 6 Working Committee and Norton Rose Fulbright met with District Six claimants in Zonnebloem last Saturday.

An organisation taking the government to court for failing victims of apartheid forced removals in District Six has urged claimants not to lose hope.

The District 6 Working Committee (D6WC) and the law firm, Norton Rose Fulbright, met with hundreds of claimants in Zonnebloem last Saturday to update them on the progress made since they approached the courts in April, seeking a declaratory order that the state has failed in its constitutional duty to provide restitution to District Six land claimants, who had lodged their claims as far back as 1998.

Nicki van’t Riet, director of the law firm, said the Department of Rural Development and Land Reform (DRDLR), as the main respondent in the case, had still not filed its answering papers.

“I have spoken to the state attorney for the DRDLR,” said Ms Van’t Riet.

“He understands the community’s point of view, he understands that this has been an issue that has been dragged out for six years, let alone 22 years, and he said that the answering papers will be filed by this Friday.”

Shahied Martheze, 59, a former District Six resident now living in Kensington, said it had been a long fight for justice, but he had faith in the D6WC.

Murida Hajee, 74, who stays with her daughter in Mitchell’s Plain, said she was done waiting.

“What is really happening? I am waiting 22 years now. How long still? I am sick and tired of waiting.”

Manfred Hunter, 74, of Hanover Park, said: “There is going to be success and everybody that is here will see what is going to happen.”

Shooyb Hajee, a member of Reclaim the City and son of a claimant, praised the D6WC for the work it was doing.

“I would like to thank Shahied Ajam, the rest of the D6WC and the lawyers in helping to make this process go quicker and I know that people long to come back to District 6, that is their wish,” he said.

D6WC chair Shahied Ajam said the government was starting to sit up and pay attention to the committee. Mr Ajam said 42 hectares of land were available for development, which the D6WC had mapped out around the Zonnebloem area and they would like all of the 1077 claimants to be housed simultaneously.

Phase three of the construction was nearly complete and it might only house 108 claimants, which would not be ideal for the rest of the claimants, he said.

Mr Ajam said only the Minister of Rural Development and Land Reform, Maite Nkoana-Mashabane, had the final say on transferring a budget for District Six development from national to provincial government, and no agreement had been reached in the restitution process while the court case continued.

The DRDLR were not available to comment at the time of going to press and the Department of Human Settlements in the Western Cape declined to comment.

The case is due to be heard in the Land Claims Court later this year.