108 claimants to return to District Six after 55 years

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After years of waiting, 108 claimants will return to District Six in the Cape Town City Bowl this week. One of the beneficiaries for the Phase Three development, 100-year-old Shariefa Khan celebrated her birthday in April.

She is one of the 60 000 people who were forcibly removed by the apartheid government as the suburb was declared a Whites’ only area, 55 years ago.

Khan is overcome with raw emotion just at the very mention of her planned return this coming week.

Khan lives with her daughter, Sumaya Mukuddem, in Connaught Estate in Elsies River, but the candle burning for District Six could never be extinguished.

108 claimants prepare to return to District Six:

It’s been an uphill battle for those who want to return to the area, once known for its inclusivity and vibrancy. Founder and Chairperson of the District Six Working Committee, Zahra Nordien, says years of bureaucratic processes, lost paperwork and construction challenges have caused delays.

“People can’t wait to return to District Six, the claimants from 1995 to 1998 that will be moving in now, and in the next two phases that’s going to be built, they’ve been waiting for more than 30 years, then of course there is another group, I hate to use the word, late claimants. They also need to come back to District Six.  Is there going to be enough land for those claimants to come back?”

Recently there has also been concerns about the illegal occupation of land earmarked for the further development of District Six.

District Six Working Committee Spokesperson, Karen Breytenbach, says for many, District Six might just be a fading dream.

“Unfortunately, I think it will take many years, and I don’t think many of the claimants will survive until that happens.  We’ve already seen in the COVID period that more and more people have passed on, especially now because many of the claimants are elderly and they have already had underlying health conditions, every week almost we hear about people dying.”