“Home at last.” For more than 24 years Mavis Alexander (82) has been longing to utter these three words. And on Monday 16 May her dream became a reality when she received the keys to her new home in District Six.
Earlier this month, the Department of Agriculture, Land Reform and Rural Development finally gave the greenlight for the final return of 108 District Six land claimants.
This comes after several delays with the handover process.
More than 20 of the 108 District Six phase three beneficiaries received the keys.
Alexander explains that she and her three children were evicted in 1972. They were forced to move to Hanover Park.
“I am very happy. One of my wishes was always to return and that one of my children would care for me. District Six was the best place for me. I had a beautiful childhood here and as a young woman I had a good life here.”
Alexander explains that she will be sharing her home with her son, daughter-in-law, and grandson.
“At night, now I can see Table Mountain, Lion’s Head, and part of the harbour again. The same as when I was younger. We are naming our house ‘Home at last’.”
Alexander’s son Jeff (61) says the family is elated.
Jeff says he is happy that his mother will spend her last days in the place she loved and where she belongs.
“I am excited that my mother is comfortable now. The waiting affected her mentally and physically. She got sick quite a few times, and there were constant delays in the handover process. But we have come full circle now and I can see the change in my mom.”
He says his mother’s biggest fear was that she would die without returning to her home town.
“We are happy with the house, the materials that were used and the layout is up to par.”
He says sitting on the stoep on Tuesday 17 May and listening to the sounds of the area brought back nostalgic memories.
“I was born here in Bloemhof Street, now called Skye View Flats. On Tuesday there was that same atmosphere, the sound of children playing in the distance. The nostalgia is inexplainable. You hear the boats in the harbour; that is what we missed.”
Adullah Edwards (84) waited 28 years.
He explains that when he received the keys to his home on Thursday 5 May, he was emotional.
“I cried a bit. Because of the long wait. They gave me the keys and said, “Bismillah, this is your house’. I am happy with my home.”
Edwards and his wife Zainap (82) officially moved into their two-bedroomed home on Saturday 21 May. They have been living in Athlone for many years.
“It was a very long wait. I attended every meeting. If they had meetings at the City Hall, I would be on the Parade at 06:00 already, because I was so anxious. Sometimes I would go home sad because the meeting didn’t take place.”
A determined Edwards says he always believed that one day he would return.
“I never gave up. My wife and daughters didn’t believe that it would happen because it took so long. I am very happy that I never gave up.”
Zahrah Nordien, chair of the District Six Working Committee, says they are happy that the 108 claimants will finally be returning but adds that the restitution process needs to happen quicker.
“Restitution for D6 is taking very long. If you take into consideration how quick the restitution land is being developed and the units going up elsewhere in the country, why is it taking so long for D6 to be developed for the people to be restituted?”
In March this year, the department of Agriculture, Land Reform and Rural Development received the letters of occupancy from the City and then deliberations took place regarding the manner and plan in which the return of the beneficiaries will be managed.
Thoko Didiza, Minister of Agriculture, Land Reform and Rural Development, says: “I am grateful to all stakeholders who made this historic day in the lives of these beneficiaries possible. This is a clear indication by all three spheres of government’s commitment to restore the dignity of the people of District 6.”
Didiza says the delays in the handover process was “unavoidable”.
“We would like to apologise to all the beneficiaries for the delays as they were unavoidable, as we also had wanted to ensure that we tick all the boxes before the final return, drawing from the lessons learnt from the previous phases.”
Reggie Ngcobo, spokesperson for the department, says the final return of the District Six Phase three beneficiaries will be done in phases until Wednesday 25 May.
Ngcobo says they are still dealing with some family disputes and verification challenges, with some of the allocated beneficiaries.