Why claimants will have to wait a little bit longer to return to District Six

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Phase 3 redevelopment of District Six in Hanover Street.
Phase 3 redevelopment of District Six in Hanover Street.
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  • The handover of 108 housing units was supposed to take place at the end of April.
  • The seven phases run concurrently from 2020 to 2024.
  • The delay is due to the Covid-19 pandemic and the nationwide lockdown.

The Department of Agriculture, Land Reform and Rural Development confirmed yet another delay in the handover of 108 housing units for the District Six claimants. 

According to the department, the delay is due to the Covid-19 pandemic and the nationwide lockdown.

The department said in a statement on Wednesday: "This department is a developer of phase 3 of District Six Redevelopment. In this phase, the department is building 108 housing units, which will be handed over to claimants once they are completed.

"There were 24 housing units built in phase 1 and 115 for phase 2. As the world is currently experiencing the effect of Covid-19, the global pandemic affected the construction of District Six. As a result, some delays were just inevitable." 

It said it remains committed to returning the people of District Six to their ancestral land.

READ | District Six: Claimants to return home 55 years after being forcibly removed

Minister Thoko Didiza's spokesperson Reggie Ngcobo told News24 there were two reasons why the handover could not take place.

"The first reason was due to Covid-19 regulations, and the second was, because the contractor was supposed to comply with health and safety protocols, it had an impact on the productivity on site. 

"The department is also working very closely with the City of Cape Town to complete the commission of municipal services. But as soon as we are lowering the lockdown regulations, the contractors can start again with the construction," he said. 

Ngcobo said the department hopes for the construction of the homes to be completed by June.

Phases

The housing handover was meant to take place at the end of April. There are seven phases, which are expected to run concurrently from 2020 to 2024. 

This year marks 55 years since thousands of people were forcefully removed from District Six when it was declared a "whites-only" area under the Apartheid Group Areas Act.

ALSO READ | Lack of income generation threatens District Six Museum's survival

Claimants from the District Six Working Committee were locked in a class-action lawsuit against the government over its failure to deliver restitution 27 years into democracy.

A 2019 judgment ruled that the department failed to comply with a court order to draft a plan to redevelop District Six.

The committee's spokesperson, Karen Breytenbach, said: "The long delays are not ideal [for] claimants [that] have been waiting for years. We hope people can move back when Ramadan ends.

"However, we don't know yet who the 108 claimants are who will move in. We have concerns regarding some of our most vulnerable and elderly claimants and are compiling a list that we will submit to the government this week, just to make sure no one falls through the cracks."

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