Former residents of District Six in Cape Town are taking government to court. The District Six Working Committee says the Department of Rural Development and Land Reform has failed to ensure restitution.
Lawyers for the group have filed an application in the Land Claims Court, asking for among others, the fast tracking of the restitution process.
Frustrated with the slow pace of restitution, the District Six Working Committee says it represents over 2 000 members. By bringing the court application, it is also acting in the interest of all former residents forcibly removed from the historic area.
“We are seeking a declaratory order that the government is in breach of its constitutional obligations to provide restitution, we are then seeking mandatory relief which is for the government to come up with a plan and proposal after consultation with all the relevant parties that they must then submit to the court within three months, after the court order, the plan will need to address things like layout, budgetary issues, how they will decide who will receive restitution going forward and so on,” says Attorney Nicki Van’t Riet.
Over 60 000 people were forcibly evicted from District Six under the apartheid regime’s 1950 Group areas Act. While about 150 families have moved back, redevelopment of the area has been dogged by delays.
“If one has regard for the people, the claimants who claimed between 1995 and 1998, this is the moment of truth for them. It has been a lot of pain, a lot of trauma and suffering, and for them today just by serving the application in itself is a victory. We know we are going to win this case hands down because for 20 years or more the state has made empty promises,” says District Six Working Committee, Shahied Ajami.
Government says it is in the process of formulating a legal position on the matter. “Government has always admitted that the process of land claims has not been moving fast as the wishes of all of us. As government, we commit ourselves to move the process of restitution as fast as possible but on this one, we have received the papers, we will study the papers, and they are receiving our legal attention,” says Department of Rural Development and Land Reform Spokesperson, Vuyani Nkasayi.
The third phase of redevelopment is underway and is expected to deliver about 100 homes. The District Six Working Committee says if the application goes unopposed, they should be back in court by next month.