March on City 'hold-up'

2015-11-03 12:38
About a thousand people are set to march to the mayor’s office tomorrow, frustrated about a lack of transparency from the City of Cape in dealing with District Six land.
The District Six working committee claims the City is “not transparent in its dealings with the people” and keeps “selling off land to CPUT and other companies for profit”, instead of building sustainable low-cost housing in the city.
The City has a responsibility towards “the people to make as much land available for restitution purposes – and not only the deeply disputed 42 hectares”, says Shahied Ajam, chairperson of the District Six working committee.
“The City is primarily the custodian of the vacant land in District Six and as such has a duty. The Western Cape department of rural development and land reform offices fall under the watch of the City and both have been ‘dragging their feet’ in the land reform process for the last 10 years, thus giving people a sense of hopelessness and despair,” Ajam says.
“Restitution is not at work in District Six. It would appear that our dignity and heritage does not matter to the City.”
Ian Neilson, mayoral committee member for finance, says the redevelopment of District Six is primarily the responsibility of the national department of rural development and land affairs.
“The City, the Western Cape government and the department of rural development and land affairs have stood together in our joint determination to see the development of District Six proceed as soon as possible,” he says.
“The City is in complete support of the department to unlock the development which has been held up by special interests for 20 years.
“It is now time for the development to proceed. The City and the department have done everything in our power to speed up the process and to prevent further delays while at the same time being responsive to community and stakeholder inputs. In addition, the department has opened a new process for additional land claimants.”
Neilson believes it is “not correct or fair” to create the impression that the City has been a main cause for any delays, having released available City-owned land to the department in the area for restitution.
The City has also provided a budget for all the bulk services for the development and the internal services for the current phase, Neilson says.
Restitution in District Six has been “overwhelmingly covered in fraud, inequity and injustice”, Ajam claims.
“Many elderly and frail people, after 21 years of democracy, are still ‘sitting outside in the cold’ despite being eligible for restitution. Many have died without their rights having ever been restored. How can the City stand by and allow all of this to happen?” Ajam says.
“It is common knowledge by now that restitution was never about housing schemes. It was always about having lost our ‘right in land’ in apartheid South Africa and being returned to our land. Therefore restitution is free and people’s dignity must be restored as soon as humanly possible. Government has a duty towards the people in terms of the Constitution.”
The march also aims to express displeasure over the lease of the Good Hope Centre to a film company, without “consulting with the affected people”, Ajam says.
The lease agreement process for the Good Hope Centre has been reactivated and the City is currently conducting a public participation process, Neilson says.
The Good Hope Centre has been booked from July to December for a film company. Vendors were given more than four months’ notice in order to look for alternative venues, he says.
“The City has committed to assisting long-standing tenants of the Good Hope Centre to find alternative venues for their events that were normally held at the venue. The City’s assistance comprised finding other suitable City-owned venues as well as financial support for either public or privately owned venues, where the costs of alternative locations were disproportionate to the preferred venue should that be required.
“The requirement was that all applications have to be lodged with the City’s events office at least 120 days prior to the event, to be able to be considered for financial and non-financial support,” he says.

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