Guest Column

OPINION | Land claimants: the fight for justice and against apartheid-type thinking still haunts SA

2020-03-05 14:06
(From left) Omar Kherekar, Kassiem Kherekar (deceased) Gasant Kherekar (seated),Rasaat Kherekar and Hoosain Kherekar - Trustees of the Kherekar Family Trust. (Supplied)

(From left) Omar Kherekar, Kassiem Kherekar (deceased) Gasant Kherekar (seated),Rasaat Kherekar and Hoosain Kherekar - Trustees of the Kherekar Family Trust. (Supplied)

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We should view land claim recipients not as beggars who cannot make for worthy business people or investors but as deserving neighbours who should have been living and operating businesses in areas such as Constantia for generations, writes Mahomed Khalid Sayed

As former presidents hand over documents - declaring that apartheid was a crime against humanity - to former deputy-presidents and as the case of a racist beach-goer to Greek islands is finalised, one cannot help but think of these words of stalwart anti-apartheid cleric Dr Beyers Naude, when he said: "You can never be fully human unless you've discovered the humanity in other human beings. Don't close your eyes to the injustices of your own country by trying to solve the injustices of another country. That's an evasion of Christian responsibility."

Indeed, the world had stood up to criminal apartheid South Africa and stopped the monster. 

How a former head of an apartheid state could plead ignorance about the severity of the crime and some compatriots continue their unashamed racism unabated, we must acknowledge that in 2020 South Africa, 30 years after Madiba's release, the fall of legal segregation and separate development, the thinking that gave rise to this system is rearing its ugly head again.

As Clive Derby-Lewis once articulated, the failure of apartheid, for him, was not so much the concept of separate development but rather the emphasis on the "hate" in apartheid.

As an avowed conservative one can understand Derby-Lewis, it is a bit more difficult to forgive the so-called reformed ones for defending the system.

Take for example, the latest hurdle that the Kherekar Family Trust is having to contend with in doing with their land what they want.

After a 20-year battle, the Land Claims Court finally ruled in the favor of the Trust and ordered the government to transfer land to the Trust.

Sadly by then, a number of the claimants had already passed on and did not see justice being served.

The Kherekar Family Trust have applied to the City of Cape Town to have the land rezoned for commercial purposes.

Yet while the Constantia Ratepayers and Residents Association (CRRA) allowed for the land to be used as a dumping site, they now object to the application made by the Kherekar Family Trust.

The application by the Kherekar Family Trust though is not the first one the CRRA have objected to.

In 2016, the Hadjie Abdullah Solomon Family Trust had plans to build a R250 million retail complex; again, on land in Constantia that belonged to the Hadjie Abdullah Solomon Trust.

CRRA went to court and lost with costs.

Yet, four years later, they object again. 

It comes therefore as no surprise that Sheila Camerer, a leading figure in the Democratic Alliance and a former National Party cabinet member, is involved in the objections to the pursuits of these two Trusts. 

Yet the Trust is simply doing what many other land owners have done and that is to pursue reasonably their commercial interests on their property.

If the law permits it, why should Camerer and the CRRA object? 

Importantly, there is a more fundamental principle at play.

A principle brought into question by the remarks made by De Klerk and no doubt too compromised by the frivolous objections by Camerer and her ilk. 

It is the principle of justice. 

The post-1994 government does not do people a favour when they restore land to them.

When recipients of land claims finally do receive their land or payouts, it is not an act of benevolence that is being shown towards them by the tax-payer. 

After two decades, the Land Claims Court ruled in favour of the Kherekar Family Trust, but this was not the court showing mercy towards the beneficiaries of the Trust. 

It was a matter of justice that land recipients such as the Kherekar Family Trust and the Hadji Abdullah Solomon Family Trust received what is due to them because they and their forebears were victims of a crime against humanity which removed them from their land simply because of the colour of their skin. 

These and all land recipients should be afforded the respect and dignity of any land owner in South Africa. 

We should view land claim recipients not as beggars who cannot make for worthy business people or investors but as deserving neighbours who should have been living and operating businesses in areas such as Constantia for generations. 

This year also marks the 60th anniversary of the promulgation of the Group Areas Act.

An unreasonable and unjust law that simply declared certain areas inhabitable for particular races.

De Klerk, as Derby-Lewis did, believes that "separate development" based on race is reasonable. 

But sadly, the CRRA through their frivolous court applications against the pursuit of justice only re-enforces this notion of separate development and that certain races may only own land and operate businesses in certain areas. 

The fight between justice and the thinking that bore that evil system therefore continues to haunt South Africa. 

- Mahomed Khalid Sayed is the Western Cape Provincial chairperson of the ANC Youth League and ANC Member of the Provincial Legislature in the Western Cape. 

Read more on:    constantia  |  cape town  |  land  |  land claims
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