District Six pensioner faces trauma of second eviction

(iStock)
(iStock)

Cape Town – A 78-year-old man remains in the dark about whether he will ever be compensated for being evicted from District Six during apartheid. And now he and his family face the possibility of a second eviction.

The rural development and land reform department took the elderly Yusuf Williams and his family to the Western Cape High Court last year to remove them from a property in Reform Street, Zonnebloem.

It argued there was no paper trail to prove they had a right to stay there and were thus illegal occupants.

Mention was also made of successful land claimants who were angry at those trying to circumvent the restitution process and who were “prepared to take matters into their own hands”.  

Proven fruitless

Williams was forced to move out of District Six around 1973 because of the Group Areas Act. He lodged a claim in 1998.

“It is very unjust that valid claimants are being evicted and face the trauma of a second eviction,” said Jyoti Narshi, a senior associate at Werksmans Attorneys, who took on the case pro bono.

She said it would have been a different matter had the department found alternative accommodation and explained what they were trying to do.

Repeated attempts to extract information from officials about restitution had proven fruitless, she said.

In an affidavit, the department’s acting chief director of restitution support, David Smit, said the property formed part of the District Six redevelopment and had been earmarked for another claimant.

But Narshi said this person had actually died.

“They [the family] say they were given keys by a trustee of the District 6 beneficiary trust, who has also since passed on".

They said in court papers that they had been told that the vacant house had been awarded as part of the phase 2 roll out.

The city was the registered owner of four erven in the vicinity, comprising about 40ha.

Relocation areas

Smit said the city had not yet finalised plans to subdivide those erven for planned housing units, commercial sites and communal amenities and infrastructure.

Because Williams lodged his claim in 1998, he was apparently only entitled to receive an allocation in a future phase.

A human settlements official at the city of Cape Town, Gregory Goodwin, said in an affidavit that he had established Williams and his wife owned a property in Kewtown.

“It is therefore assumed that these respondents will take occupation of this property should the court grant an eviction order".

It offered their children alternative emergency accommodation in two temporary relocation areas.

After failed attempts to fight the eviction in the Western Cape High Court, the family was supposed to vacate the premises by June 30. The eviction was then extended to Monday.

The department on Friday granted a stay of eviction until July 21, by which time Narshi intended to apply for special leave to the Supreme Court of Appeal.

“We think we find merit in the case because the department has not said what steps it has taken, where their claim is and has given no information about the status of claims,” she said.

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