NEWS & ANALYSIS

Cape Town committed to facilitating land restitution – Patricia de Lille

Mayor says it is unacceptable that people are dying before getting to enjoy the benefit of the land which is rightfully theirs

City committed to facilitating land restitution 

8 February 2017

Good morning, goeie môre, molweni, as-salaamu alaikum, shalom.

I would like to ask that we stand and observe a moment of silence for those who have lost their lives while waiting for their land to be returned to them.

Thank you.

The first three lines of the preamble of our Constitution state:

‘We, the people of South Africa,

Recognise the injustices of our past;

Honour those who suffered for justice and freedom in our land.’

I feel that we are gathered here today to bring those very words to life.

It is only four days before the anniversary of the District Six removals.

And how much closer are we to justice for the families who were wronged in the past?

In 1961 the area that we are in today was declared as being for whites only in terms of the Group Areas Act.

Eight families had homes and businesses on land which was cruelly taken from them.

There are currently seven outstanding land claims on a parcel of land, six hectares in size and worth R120 million.

The land claim was first submitted 25 years ago and it is an injustice that these families have had to wait this long for progress on their claim.

It is unacceptable that people are dying before getting to enjoy the benefit of the land which is rightfully theirs.

As part of our Organisational Development and Transformation Plan, we are committed to dealing with the legacy of apartheid spatial planning.

Since 2011, we have assisted in the transfer of 14 properties from the City for restitution purposes in areas such as Somerset West, Simon’s Town, Milnerton, Claremont and Dido Valley.

We are committed to redressing the injustices of the past by enabling residents to gain access to their dispossessed land as a result of racially discriminatory laws and practices in the past.

We have six more cases that we will try to resolve during this term.

As part of this programme, I relooked the facts regarding the claim and took the decision that the City’s role in the land claim must be concluded as soon as possible.

On Monday I engaged with the claimants who agreed that we need to finalise this matter.

Today we embark on a legal process to release the land to the Department of Rural Development and Land Reform so that they can return the Constantia land to its rightful owners.

We have made the commitment to assist them in this regard.

In the past there were delays caused by too many conditions having been placed by too many departments in the different spheres of government.

We all know that these issues have caused unwelcome delays.

I call them unwelcome because I believe that the City, the beneficiaries, and the Land Claims Commission have one very important thing in common.

We all want to be on the right side of history.

Among the families there has also been disagreement regarding the servitude agreement. This includes using some land for access roads.

I am proud of them for reaching an agreement regarding this issue on Monday as well.

One of the seven parcels of land was used by the City as the Ladies Mile waste drop-off facility.

We have been following a tender process to rehabilitate the land.

By March 2017, the appointed contractor will be on site to commence with this process.

We anticipate that this process will be completed by the end of August 2017, if all goes according to plan.

We are taking these steps because that land was never the City’s to begin with.

To the beneficiaries today I want to say: you are one step closer to home.

We admire your tenacity and determination to receive the justice owed to you.

Like Mrs Selega Sedin, who will be 90 years old this year.

Her father, Toggo Solomon, farmed on the land where she lived with her three sisters and three brothers.

She grew up on these streets, lived off the harvest of her father’s farm, and became a dressmaker with her own business.

Until one day they were just told: ‘You’ve got to move’.

Just like that she lost her business premises and the family lost the farm.

She has not only fought off discouragement, but also illness in anticipation of the day when she will return home.

Mrs Sedin, I have heard that you still play Sudoku and do crossword puzzles every day, and I really hope you will be doing that on your land very soon.

Similarly, her cousin, Gadija Ebrahim, also turns 90 years old in a few weeks.

Her father, Taliep Solomon, was an entrepreneur and community leader here in Constantia.

He was awarded medals at the Imperial Fruit Show in the United Kingdom in 1937 for the quality of the grapes he grew here.

He supplied businesses with flowers and had a bus company.

What has kept him and his sister Fatima going is their mission to try and erase the hurt that their mother, Aunty Patsy, endured ever since the day they were forcibly removed.

Once they were removed from Constantia, they were removed in the late 1960s from Claremont as well.

This was a mixed community who lived together in harmony.

Different faiths lived in mutual respect and cared for one another.

Aunty Patsy’s son and daughter still bring her here for a drive from time to time to see their house, ‘Utopia’, which still stands on Spaanschemat River Road.

They were institutionally and intentionally disempowered because of the colour of their skin.

Entire families were taken off their land – their ground stolen.

These claimants and committee members have met regularly over the last 25 years.

They never gave up.

Thank you for keeping one another motivated and committed to the justice that you all deserve.

Today we sign the transfer agreement so that you can enter the next phase of your claim with the Regional Land Claims Commission.

This agreement is symbolic of the commitment by the City of Cape Town to ensure restoration of land rights where land has been dispossessed.

We pledge to assist the beneficiaries with further restitution support within our mandate.

I want to wish all eight families well for the rest of the journey of their restitution claim.

I thank you.

God bless.

Issued by Pierrinne Leukes, Spokesperson for the Executive Mayor, City of Cape Town, 8 February 2017