'You were relying on hope, not reality' - Judge tells Nkoana-Mashabane, referring to District Six

2019-05-17 19:56
Minister Maite Nkoana-Mashabane (Jenna Etheridge, News24)

Minister Maite Nkoana-Mashabane (Jenna Etheridge, News24)

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District Six land claimants continue to be victims of bureaucracy and the ineptitude of politicians as Rural Development and Land Reform Minister Maite Nkoana-Mashabane on Friday conceded that she had failed to comply with a court order from November regarding the development of the area.

Taking the stand in the Land Claims Court, she explained that it became clear at the end of February that there was time, legal advice and finance challenges regarding a comprehensive plan for the restitution of District 6.

She said she should have asked for an extension sooner but had the intention and willingness to fully comply, never losing hope.

"You were relying on hope, not on reality," remarked Acting Judge Tembeka Ngcukaitobi, to nods from the packed gallery.

The court heard that while the redevelopment of District Six would cost around R11 billion and restitution, around R2.4bn, the department could only afford to spend R351 million a year. 

In her affidavit, Nkoana-Mashabane said that the R1.5m price tag per family unit was "unaffordable and unsustainable".

Judge Ngcukaitobi wondered whether that suggested the government was in fact reluctant to comply with the agreed plan.

The minister replied that they were being honest about financial constraints, which both President Cyril Ramaphosa and the Treasury were aware of. 

They were not saying it was too expensive, she said. Rather, they needed resources.

Despite advocate Geoff Budlender SC, for the claimants, explaining why it looked like Nkoana-Mashabane was deflecting responsibility for her failures onto her officials, she remained adamant that she did what she could and that the will was there. 

"I will say I regret how we have conducted the business but I did not willfully ignore my responsibilities," she said.

They were not running away from the project but had to help other dispossessed communities across South Africa and needed the "whole of government to come to the party".

The packed gallery gasped when she said she would need until August to come back to the court with a plan, after looking at public-private partnerships to fund the shortfall and maybe even foreign direct investors.

"This is all speculative," said Judge Ngcukaitobi said.

He did not mince his words, saying he still did not have facts and a concrete plan in front of him.

"Thank you," muttered the gallery in agreement.

The judge pointed out that the matter had been in existence since 1998. In 2012, former president Jacob Zuma said R700m would be made available to accelerate the District Six project within three years, he said.

"What happened to that money?" he asked. Nkoana-Mashabane said she didn't know but it must have been special funding from Treasury.

"This is a 20-year delay," Ngcukaitobi continued, adding that there was no explanation for why the project was not factored into the budget.

Based on what he had heard, the department was making promises it could not comply with.

He adjourned the matter but did not announce a date for judgment.

Read more on:    maite nkoana-mashabane  |  jacob zuma  |  land
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