District Six claimants demand answers from government

2017-06-02 20:59
Gugile Nkwinti. (Picture: Beeld)

Gugile Nkwinti. (Picture: Beeld)

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Cape Town – Families which were forcibly removed from District Six during the apartheid era want the land reform department to explain why financial compensation and restitution have still not been finalised.

The District Six Working Committee's 2 500 members call for justice 25 years down the line, in a letter sent to Minister of Rural Development and Land Reform Gugile Nkwinti in May.

There was uncertainty after previous requests for information had gone unanswered by the department. The claimants' lawyer said their situation was "intolerable" and breached their constitutional right to restoration.

"The purpose of this letter is to request information about the current status of the District Six land claim process and a specific plan of action to finalise this long outstanding process," said Nicki van’t Riet, a senior associate at Norton Rose Fulbright SA, who is representing the claimants pro bono.

They want to know when those who opted for financial compensation will be paid, and specific timelines for land restoration.

Forty-two hectares in District Six were set aside for restitution after the fall of the apartheid government.

Van't Riet referred to a record of understanding concluded in 1998 between the District Six Beneficiary Trust, the City of Cape Town and the then land affairs minister.

The parties concluded a framework agreement that formed the basis for the construction and redevelopment of the area.

Compensation or relocation 

According to the letter, half of the claimants who applied for restitution between 1995 and 1998 opted for monetary compensation. The rest chose to be relocated to District Six.

A second group lodged land claims in 2014, in terms of the relevant legislation at the time.

Construction of phase 1 of the redevelopment began in 2004. It was completed with phase 2 in 2013. The construction of phase 3 was underway, with sections of the first batch apparently set for completion in July.

"Some claimants have now taken occupation of the properties in phase 1 and phase 2. Many have still not received transfer of the properties they occupy," said Van’t Riet.

A "substantial" number of claimants had not received any financial compensation, and would not receive land restoration in any of the phases.

The minister was given until the middle of next week to respond.

Should his reply not be sufficient, the group intends approaching the Land Claims Court to ask that it declare the minister in breach of his constitutional and statutory obligations in respect of land restitution.

They would seek a structural interdict to oversee the finalisation of the land claim process.

By Friday afternoon, the department had not yet responded to News24's request to confirm receipt of the letter and indicate whether it would respond by the deadline. 

Read more on:    gugile nkwinti  |  cape town  |  housing

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