District Six land restitution: public hearings

Human Settlements (WCPP)

24 November 2021
Chairperson: Ms M Maseko (DA)
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Meeting Summary

Video

In this meeting, the Committee heard oral submissions from more than a dozen former residents of District Six who had filed land restitution claims. The Committee emphasised that responsibility for land reform and restitution lay not with the provincial government but with the national Department of Agriculture, Land Reform and Rural Development (DALRRD). However, the Committee intended to hear the claimants’ experiences, to assist where it could, and, in particular, to help facilitate communication between DALRRD and the claimants. It was especially interested in the 1 062 outstanding District Six claims that had been filed before 1999 and that were therefore being prioritised for finalisation.

Each person who made an oral submission expressed disappointment about the delays in the land restitution process. Some had been allocated units in June, under the third phase of the District Six redevelopment project, but complained that they had not heard any updates since then and had not yet been allowed to move in. Many were the second generation or third generation of claimants, having inherited the land claims from relatives who had now died. Some had been reclassified as new claimants – and therefore relegated to a later phase of the restitution process – following the death of their relatives, even if the family had laid its original claim soon after 1995. They expressed concerns about poor communication from national government, and many felt the national government had proceeded without a sense of urgency and without sufficient respect for the dignity of the claimants.

DALRRD had provided written responses to each written submission received by the Committee, but the Committee was unable to discuss the responses in a public meeting, for privacy reasons. Members remarked on the evident frustration of the claimants, and on the unfairness of the delays that the claimants had been subjected to. The Committee would follow up on the delay in the occupation certificates for the new phase-three units, issued by the City of Cape Town, but Members felt that the Committee needed to probe DALRRD’s broader development and land restitution model more deeply. They were disappointed that DALRRD had declined yet another invitation to attend a Committee meeting, but committed to persist in trying to arrange a meeting. The Committee also planned to meet with the regional branch of the Commission on Restitution of Land Rights early next year.

 

Meeting report

The Chairperson said that the Committee had received apologies from the provincial Minister and the acting head of the provincial Department of Human Settlements (DHS), who were in a Cabinet meeting.

She said that the Committee had also invited the national Department of Agriculture, Land Reform and Rural Development (DALRRD). In its reply, DALRRD had said that the relationship between the Executive and the legislature was determined by the Constitution, and that Members of the National Executive accounted to the National Assembly and, on provincial matters, to the National Council of Provinces (NCOP). DALRRD therefore recommended that the Committee should approach the NCOP. However, the Chairperson said that the Committee had not necessarily been seeking the national Minister’s attendance at the meeting – it had wanted to meet with some of the DALRRD officials who handled the restitution claims.

She said that the Committee had last received a report on District Six restitution claims in 2018. 2 760 District Six restitution claims had been filed before 1999. Of the 2 760 claimants, 1 201 had wanted redevelopment; the others had settled for financial restitution. R333 million had been allocated and, as of 2018, 139 units had been allocated, meaning that 1 062 claimants were still waiting. Since 2018, the Committee had attempted to follow up, because it had received queries from the claimants. Land reform and restitution was not a provincial mandate, but housing was a provincial mandate. The Committee had therefore thought that the province could assist DALRRD in addressing the delays by implementing the housing part of the restitution projects – but that had turned out not to be feasible. However, on 15 September, the Committee had discussed the challenges experienced by the claimants, and had resolved to embark on a public participation process, in order to hear the claimants’ experiences and assist them with unresolved claims. The hearings had been advertised from 27 September into October.

She said that it would have been nice for DALRRD to be present to provide clarity on matters arising during the hearings. There was also an issue arising from the Protection of Personal Information Act (POPIA), which required that claimants had to give permission for their personal information to be forwarded between government bodies. A legal adviser was present and could explain that later.

Mr Wafiq Domingo said that he represented his late mother, who had laid a claim. He was still concerned about the communication between the national, provincial, and local governments on this matter – poor communication seemed likely to continue to delay the process.

The Chairperson replied that Mr Domingo had raised a pertinent challenge. DALRRD’s absence was a challenge – land reform and restitution was not part of the provincial government’s mandate, so the Committee depended on the national government for information to pass on to claimants. The hearings were part of the Committee’s efforts to get answers from DALRRD. POPIA was an additional challenge – before the Committee could get information from DALRRD on behalf of claimants, claimants had to provide permission for DALRRD to disclose the relevant information to the Committee. Providing such permission was of course optional.  

Mr Christopher Cox said that his 93-year-old aunt was a claimant. He asked whether DALRRD had indicated when it would communicate with the Committee or otherwise start the restitution process. He was very worried that the process would not be finalised during the remaining years of his aunt’s life.  

The Chairperson replied that the Committee did not know when the process would be finalised. According to the information the Committee had received, the Commission on Restitution of Land Rights (the Land Commission) had responded to some claimants. It seemed that the Commission sometimes disagreed with the content of certain claims. The Committee would send individual responses to each claimant’s submission, reflecting the feedback that DALRRD had provided on that specific claim. In other cases, the Committee had been informed that the claimant had been contacted directly – it would also follow up with those claimants to ensure that that had indeed happened. 

Another member of the public said that he was present with his 81-year-old father, who was a claimant. He was grateful that the provincial government was stepping in and that claimants’ voices were being heard in the current meeting – that had never happened before. It was indeed disappointing that the national government was not present, but the hearings should proceed.

The Chairperson invited applicants for District Six land restitution to make oral submissions.  

Oral submissions: District Six land restitution claims

Alexander family

Mr Jeff Alexander said that he represented his mother, who was a claimant. She had been allocated a unit in June, and the paperwork had been completed. However, he felt that the process was not transparent, and there had not been any follow-up. His mother had become depressed, because she worried that she would die before she moved into her new house. The last update he had heard had been about problems with the paving and the occupation certificates – but surely this should not prevent claimants from moving into the units. When could his mother move into her new house? 

Salie family

Mr Fareed Salie read out the reference number for his claim. He had applied for restitution in 1996, and his request for restitution went back to 1972. Since 1996, he had provided three sets of documents to DALRRD, all of which it had lost. Most recently, it had lost the complete set of certified documents which he had supplied in 2006.

He had visited the regional Land Claims office on Long Street in Cape Town. DALRRD had informed him that he would now be considered a new claimant, even though he had applied in 1996. He had reference numbers for his original claim, but DALRRD said that somebody else had the same numbers. How could DALRRD give the same reference numbers to two different claimants? As a result, because he was ostensibly a new claimant, he would now have to wait to receive restitution.

He had with him 60 documents, including his grandfather’s deed of transfer for the original property. 40 of the documents came from the DHS file on that property, which had been supplied to him by a DHS official. He provided the erf number and address of the property. What would happen now? Would he still be considered a new claimant? Would there be an investigation into why all his documents had been lost?

He said that he had first submitted his application at Matrix House on Strand Street in September 1996. In November 2006, he had visited the Land Claims office, where he was told that an official in the legal services section would contact him – that had never happened. He provided the names of the officials he had spoken to. None of them had ever followed up with him – he felt like he had become “persona non grata.” What was he to do now?

He added that some of District Six’s current residents were claimants who had applied as late as 2016. The new developments in District Six housed young people, people from as far away as Durban, and people whose families had been renters in District Six. At the age of 74, he was the last living member of his family to have lived in their District Six home. Another relative who had lived there had died at the age of 103. How long would he have to wait? Would he have to wait until he was 103?

Procedural discussion

Mr P Marran (ANC) said that the Committee had the claimants’ written submissions, and it also had DALRRD’s written responses. For example, on Mr Salie’s claim, DALRRD said that if a reference number began with “R9” – as Mr Salie’s did – that claim had been filed after the 1998 closing date, even though Mr Salie said his claim dated back to 1996. Some other responses said that DALRRD had interacted directly with the claimant. Perhaps the Committee could follow up with the claimants on these responses, to check whether DALRRD had adequately communicated with them and whether they agreed with the content of DALRRD’s responses.

The Chairperson said that the Committee was holding the hearings precisely to get to the bottom of such questions. There was litigation ongoing, but the Committee wanted to help facilitate communication and the flow of information between DALRRD and claimants. For example, one of the written submissions was from a claimant who had been informed that he would be receiving a unit, but who had not heard anything further since then. The Constitutional Court had ruled that pre-1999 claims should be given precedence. Moreover, the legislation still had to be amended to deal with post-1998 claims. The Committee did not have information about the post-1998 claims. So its primary concern was the outstanding pre-1999 claims, which had been delayed for decades – there had been 1 062 such claims outstanding in 2018. On those claims, the Committee wanted to hear what the challenges were, how advanced DALRRD’s process was, and what could be done to assist. She suggested that the Committee should deliberate after hearing the rest of the oral submissions.

Mr Marran said that he was aware of the Constitutional Court’s ruling. However, Mr Salie said that his claim had been submitted in 1996 – long before the 1998 cut-off date – while DALRRD said that his reference number indicated that his claim had been submitted later than that. This was an example of a matter on which the Committee could facilitate better communication – it should ask the claimants whether DALRRD had informed them directly of such issues, and whether the claimants were satisfied with DALRRD’s responses.  

The Chairperson asked Mr Marran to indulge her by hearing the rest of the submissions before discussing them.   

Mohamed family

Mr Ebrahim Mohamed [spelling not confirmed] said that he was one of 108 claimants who had been allocated a unit in June 2021 under phase three of the District Six redevelopment. The Minister at DALRRD had announced this development with “great fanfare” and had said that the 108 claimants would start to move in by 27 June. He and the others had been contacted and invited to visit the new units, after which they had signed documentation with DALRRD. They had been told that the claims would be finalised and the keys handed over shortly afterwards. That was at the end of June, and there had been “absolutely zilch” from DALRRD by way of communication since then.

In lieu of direct communication from DALRRD, he and the other claimants received information from other sources, especially journalists. He had personally telephoned DALRRD every week or ten days since June, and had not received any indication as to when he would be able to move in. DALRRD said that the City of Cape Town had not yet issued occupation certificates, because the heavy winter rains had caused damages to the new units which had had to be fixed. Yet it was clear that it should not take six months to address such an issue. 

He said that the claimants had already suffered great humiliation, pain, and discomfort during apartheid, when they had been forcibly removed from their homes. Now they were being made to suffer again and to “look like fools.” One claimant was over 100 years old and had been very excited to move back to District Six – was DALRRD waiting for her to die? Was it waiting for all the claimants to die? Why did it have no “sense of urgency”? It was unacceptable, and the claimants were being denied respect and dignity. They were being treated as though they were not entitled to ask questions or to demand urgency, because they were being given the new units for free. There had been no communication from DALRRD since June, and he would not even go into the treatment claimants had received over the preceding decades. They had waited 26 years for restitution, were still waiting, and had not been told the real reasons for the delays. If occupation certificates had not been issued yet, why not?

Davids family

Ms Shamsonisa Davids said that she represented her mother. Her mother had applied in July 2014, and in 2017 had received a letter with a reference number, which said that DALRRD would handle her claim only after handling claims lodged before the 1998 cut-off date. That was on the basis of the Constitutional Court judgement that had been mentioned earlier. However, she had not received any communication since that 2017 letter. Her concern was that claimants who had applied before 1999 had been waiting for so many years, and later claims had not even begun to be addressed. She was 42 years old and had been born in District Six; her mother was 79 years old. Would her mother still receive a new house? How long would she wait? Would she still be alive when restitution was finally granted?

September family

Mr Melvin September read out the reference number for his family’s claim. His mother had applied as far back as 1996, and the claim had officially been registered in 1998. They had received “no news from anybody.” All seven of his siblings had been alive when the claim was lodged – now only two were. He had been told that because his mother had died and the claim had fallen to him, he was now considered a new claimant.

He said that he had attended every meeting held about District Six land restitution. When the apartheid government had removed them from District Six, they had not been relocated to Woodstock but to Hanover Park, Mitchells Plain, Mannenberg, and even farther away. It took effort to attend these meetings, and claimants had been attending them not for one year but for twenty years. The claimants made the same complaints at every meeting, and it was “sick” that they now had to repeat them to the legislature.

This tied into the point raised at the beginning of the meeting about communication among the spheres of government. He thought that the claimants expected the provincial government to fight for them, but did not feel that it was doing so. The Committee should be handling the problems – it should not be telling the claimants that it was going to help them, but rather should actually be intervening to help them. Claimants had been waiting since 1998, and some of them were over the age of 100 and probably close to the end of their lives. He was the youngest in his family, and he was 65. Yet all the provincial government said was that it was “fighting with” the national government over the matter. The Committee seemed capable, and there had to be a solution. The process went “backwards and forwards,” and he felt that it accelerated before elections, only to die down again afterwards. He felt that claimants were “wasting [their] time.” If claims from 1998 were still outstanding, something was definitely not right and there had to be something that the Committee could do.

The Chairperson and other attendees wished Mr September happy birthday.

Titus family

A member of the public said that her 94-year-old mother, Joyce Titus, was present in the meeting and had lodged a claim in 1998. Every day, her mother asked her when she would be able to return to District Six, because she did not know which day would be her last. As Mr September had said, the claimants attended all the meetings, but nothing got done. She was the youngest of eight children. After their family had been forcibly removed from District Six, they had gone to live in somebody’s yard, where her father had built them a home, because her mother had not been able to work at the time.

Ishmail family

Ms Ishmail [spelling not confirmed] said that she had the same questions as the other claimants, and, like them, she was waiting to hear when she would receive restitution. She was 65. When was it going to be their turn? She hoped that the Committee could do something to help, so that the families could reunite in District Six, where she and others had been raised by their friends and neighbours. It was very sad how the Committee had treated the parents and grandparents of the community.

The Chairperson asked for clarity about Ms Ishmail’s last remark. Did she mean this Committee?

Ms Ishmail said that she meant whichever body was responsible for the land restitution process. 

Khan family

Mr Mohamed Khan [spelling not confirmed] said that he would speak on behalf of his father, who was a claimant and objected to the restitution that had been offered to him to date. He had thought and hoped that the Minister at DALRRD would be present. His father’s claim was one of the first to have been validated, but each phase of the redevelopment process had been a disappointment, and each appeared to have been unfair and influenced by “favouritism.”

He said that his father had been offered a house in the first phase of redevelopment, but only on the condition that he paid R250 000. He could not afford that, and had had to refuse the offer. In the second phase, he had been offered a unit on the second floor of a building, but had had to refuse that offer because of his physical condition. It was impractical for him to live upstairs – he had been a provincial and national rugby player in his youth, and had had knee surgery. He had complained to the Land Commission and, following a meeting, had been issued a letter, which supposedly had resolved the matter. An official had threatened him, saying that he would be relegated to the end of the queue because he had disputed the offer he received. There had still been many other units available, and he could have been given a different one, but the government deliberately ignored his plea and did not offer one. The second phase had clearly been unfair – he knew a family who had later been evicted for having wrongfully occupied a dwelling during the second phase.

He said that in the third phase of redevelopment, his father had been offered a unit at the furthest and highest point of the complex. This was after DALRRD had had seven years to correct the error it had made during the second phase. In the interim, his father had applied for consideration on the special needs criteria, and had argued that he should be prioritised in the third phase on the basis of what had happened during the first two phases. They had repeatedly reminded the Land Commission, but the communication was very bad and the Commission did not follow up. They believed that the official had carried out the threat to relegate Mr Khan to the back of the queue. He was very disappointed and sad, and they suspected that something about the process was “fishy” and called for an investigation. The Minister herself had said on television that special needs and the needs of the elderly would be considered when allocating the lower-level dwellings. His father’s dignity had not been restored, and they felt he had been unjustly discriminated against. When they visited the unit offered to him, they had seen that the lower-level and single dwellings had been allocated to young people.

He said that Dr Wayne Alexander, Chief Director: Western Cape, Land Commission, was a good person. However, Dr Alexander was incorrect in claiming that Mr Khan had been a tenant in District Six. His ownership rights had been forcibly taken from him, so what could he be but a tenant? The distinction did not make sense in the context of the Group Areas Act. The Commission had it on record, and had since 1996, that Mr Khan had legally bought his house, but that the house had been reclaimed and the deposit repaid when the family had been forcibly removed after the passage of the Act. The Khan family would not “sit idle” this time, but would fight for what they were entitled to. The Commission was bad at communicating, and its officials provided no apologies and seemed to have no empathy. The claimants became emotional because the government did not acknowledge their complaints. It was disappointing that the national government was not present in the meeting, but he was glad that the Committee had taken this first step.

Gabriels family

Ms Shihaam spoke on behalf of her family, the Gabriels. Their claim had been lodged in 1996, but, for some reason, had been officially registered in 1998, meaning that they had been relegated to “last in the queue.” Since then, they had received no correspondence from DALRRD. She had gone to the Long Street office, where she was made to wait for hours at a time – she had left her contact details, but nobody called her back. She wanted to give up hope, but why should they? The apartheid government had mistreated and forcibly removed them, and they were now entitled to live humanely. Her brother had also raised previously that DALRRD had the wrong address on record – they lived in Walmer Estate, but correspondence was being sent to Surrey Estate. She could not get anywhere in attempting to rectify that issue.    

She also had questions about things that she had read in the newspaper. Firstly, why were contractors from outside Cape Town being recruited to build the houses? There were local unemployed people who could benefit from the opportunity. Secondly, she did not understand DALRRD’s claim that part of the delay had been due to the need to obtain permission from the Cape Peninsula University of Technology. Why did CPUT have to give permission? Had the government already sold the land to CPUT?

Davids family

Mr G Brinkhuis (Al Jama-Ah) spoke on behalf of Ms Asma Davids. Ms Davids’s late husband had lodged a claim on 23 October 1998, supplying all the paperwork and supporting documents, and the claim had formally been transferred to Ms Davids. He supplied her reference number. She was now on a waiting list for a phase-three unit in District Six, and wanted to know when she would be able to take up occupancy. 

Creyton family

Ms Nabeweyah Creyton said that she had grown up on De Villiers Street in District Six, and had been seven years old when her family was forcibly removed. Her parents had embarked on the land claims process in 1998, and had been issued some documentation between 1998 and 2014. However, some documents had been lost in a fire, and they had had to apply again. She now represented her family’s claim, because both of her parents had died in the last two years. To date, all that she had been issued was a claim number from 2014 – even though her mother had initially applied in 1998. Did she have a legitimate claim, after so many years? Was she on the list of beneficiaries, and when would restitution be granted? How could she get that information?

Unnamed family

Another member of the public said that he was making a submission on behalf of his mother, who had died three months ago at the age of 89. She had developed Alzheimer’s disease, but she had always talked about District Six and returning to District Six. He himself had never been interested in the “hocus pocus” of the land restitution process, which he saw as a “circus,” but his mother had regularly walked to the Wale Street offices. He had often told himself that the claim must be close to finalisation, but nothing ever happened.

He said that he heard other claimants referring to their reference numbers, but he had no such information to supply. Since his mother’s death, he had tried to piece together some documents relating to District Six and the land claim. All he had was some scraps of paper from the District Six Beneficiary Trust, requesting various documents from her. His only evidence of District Six was a tenant’s rent card from 1970. Some of his neighbours had had to prepare affidavits swearing that they had lived in District Six. He thought that the government – whether provincial or national – had no respect for the elderly people who were claimants, and was taking them “for a fool.” He was making this submission because his mother, if she were alive, would have attended this meeting. She had moved to Manenberg and then to Paarl, but she had often come back to Cape Town, driven by the hope that the government had given her. She had died aged 89 with the hope of receiving assistance from government.

He thought it was time for the government to be direct with the public. Who were the beneficiaries of the land restitution process? He knew that papers had gotten lost over the years, and that POPIA was now in effect, but the government should create some platform through which members of the public could obtain information about the process. It was the 21st century – the relevant information could be shared by email. His own information came from somebody he had run into on Adderley Street, who had told him that his mother had lodged a claim. His siblings wanted him to pursue the claim, and he would, out of respect for his mother, so he wanted to know where he could obtain information about the process. Had his mother registered and did she have a claim number?

Domingo family

Mr Domingo said that he had been born in District Six in 1956. He gave the reference number of his family claim, which had been registered in his mother’s name. His parents had been born in 1926 and would have been 95 now. He had himself been born in District Six. His family had owned their house. As a young boy, he used to pay the rent at Customs House, and he had later discovered that the house was under a 100-year lease. During the 1950s, the apartheid government had already had a very clear plan for the implementation of the Group Areas Act – even if a non-white person was financially able to purchase a property, he was not allowed to own it. That was why 100-year leases had been introduced. However, when the Group Areas Act was passed, those leases were dishonoured and invalidated. His family had been forcibly removed to the Cape Flats, where there was no infrastructure and no shops, and they had had to travel into the city for school and work. District Six had been a close-knit community in which one could walk everywhere. Both the parents and the children had suffered in the Cape Flats, and that trauma had carried over into the next generation. It had been much more than just a relocation – the emotional and financial damage had been immense. The experience would never leave him, even if he returned to District Six. Land restitution might seem like compensation, but the victims of forced removals could never be compensated.   

He said that his mother had qualified to return to District Six under phase two of the redevelopment, and indeed in 2007 she had been fifth on the list of beneficiaries, which was published publicly. However, she had never received keys to a house. The Committee should investigate what had happened during the first two phases of redevelopment. He would not allege that there had been corruption per se, but many people given housing in District Six had never lived there during apartheid.

He said that the Restitution of Land Rights Amendment Act might have been formulated with good intentions, but it had not been properly implemented. Claimants had never been able to directly contact the government – all communication went through the District Six Beneficiary Trust. It was “absurd” and “sickening” that the spheres of government were unable to communicate with each other. It was the claimants, and their children and grandchildren, who were suffering as a result. His mother had submitted the claim for the family before the 1998 cut-off date, and had now died, like so many other claimants. Dr Alexander had sent him a sympathy letter when she died, but that did not solve the problem. The problem was that, now that he and his siblings had become the registered claimants, they would be excluded from phase three and would have to wait longer, even though they were currently homeless. The Commission was “conniving.” His name and the names of his siblings had been included on every form that his mother had submitted – it had always been a family claim. He had himself attended all the meetings with his mother, filled in the forms, taken notes, and explained the process to her. He was suspicious of the new rules. The rules now gave precedence to claimants with disabilities, but it used to be elderly people who were prioritised.

He said that claimants should not allow the national government to bully them. He thought that the land restitution process should be led by people who had been subjected to forced removals and could understand what the claimants had suffered. The new government had taken on the responsibility to provide restitution, and, like previous governments, continued to mislead the claimants – it thought that they were “stupid.” He hoped that the Committee would have the know-how and the courage to rectify the situation.

Davids family

Ms Tania Davids said that she had taken over her mother’s claim, which had been lodged in 1996. Her family had sent a written submission to the Committee about the lack of communication and transparency in the land restitution process. She had accompanied her mother to various meetings and to the offices in Cape Town, at which elderly people waited in “endless” queues in the hopes of obtaining some sort of information about the process. It had never been transparent – none of the claimants knew where they stood and how far down the list of beneficiaries they were. Could government please make the process transparent, and clarify the role of each sphere of government in the process? The claimants did not know these things – they received information in “drips and drabs,” and never received the full story. For example, from the other submissions, one point that evidently required clarification was the question of what happened to a claim when it was transferred to someone upon the death of his parent.

She thought that countries and governments were measured by how they treated the elderly and people who could not speak for themselves. It was unfair for a claim to be outstanding for 26 years without the government providing any information. Information was only provided when claimants pursued it or attended meetings. If the process was going to take 26 years, the government should at least communicate with the claimants. The government could not continue to treat the elderly in this way. The process was so protracted that the claimants were dying, but it did not have to take this long. In the private sector, one was given a task and evaluated on one’s performance in completing that task. Who was holding government accountable? Whichever level of government was responsible for the land restitution process, there had to be some way of measuring and incentivising performance. Some hundreds of units had been built during the first three phases of redevelopment – but those three phases had taken 26 years, and there were more than 1 000 claimants. That was poor service delivery.

She was emotional about it, because she wanted to see her mother resettled in the place where she had grown up, and she did not want to see her mistreated. She said that the District Six community would continue to stand together, but, for progress to be made, the different spheres of government needed to do the same. She found it “deplorable” that DALRRD felt that it owed accountability only to the national legislature and therefore had deigned it unnecessary to be present to account to the claimants themselves. She implored the Committee to help, and to give the issue the urgency it deserved. She also wanted an update on her family’s claim. Her mother did not receive any communication on the claim unless she initiated it herself – she only received notices about meetings to be held.

The Chairperson said that it would be difficult to respond to most of Ms Davids’s points in the current meeting. The Committee was running this process as part of an effort to obtain information from the national government, which was responsible for land restitution. However, she promised that the Committee would keep trying to get the information and to improve communication between DALRRD and the claimants.

Ms Davids replied that all parts of government had to work together. It would be pointless for the Committee to make an effort if the national government did not do the same.

Further additions

Mr Salie, responding to Mr Marran’s earlier point about “R9” reference numbers, sought to clarify that, despite his reference number indicating a post-1998 application, he had applied for restitution on 10 September 1996 at Matrix House. In the presence of officials and his wife, he had supplied all the required documents, including a copy of the deed of transfer for the house and the expropriation certificate from 1972. He had subsequently had to hand in further documents and then in 2006 – when the second set was also lost – a third set of documents. After that, he had spoken to an official, who had promised to follow up with him. He had failed to reach that official despite multiple attempts. Another official had eventually told him that an official from legal services would contact him – she never had, nor had anybody else. He read out the KRK number for his claim. Strangely, in 2006, an official had told him that his claim was not on the system. He had later been told that his reference number corresponded to a claim from a different Salie of no relation, but that person’s file had not contained any contact details and had contained little documentation. The official had said that there was nothing she could do to help him. What was he supposed to do? He had been advised to share the whole story with Carte Blanche

Mr Cox excused himself and his aunt, who had to leave the meeting early. She was elderly and he had to return to Worcester – the distance was itself a legacy of forced removals.

Mr Khan said that national government refused to publish the list of the claimants who had been selected for the 108 phase-three units. POPIA notwithstanding, there should be no reason not to make that information public if the process had been fair. He requested that the list of beneficiaries should be audited to ensure that the process had been fair.

He also suggested that a committee should be established to oversee all the non-profit and government entities that were involved in the land restitution process. It was as Ms Davids had asked: who was being held accountable, and by whom? He knew that the provincial government did not have the authority to issue instructions to the national government, but it could at least recommend and advise that an oversight body should be established.

Another member of the public said that one issue that had come up in many of the oral submissions was the question of what happened to a claim when the original claimant died. Was it transferred to a family member, and was it relegated to the back of the queue? It would be terribly unfair for it to be relegated – the claim should remain in place and should be honoured in respect of the deceased claimant’s family.

Discussion

The Chairperson asked the City of Cape Town to provide a response on the issue of occupation certificates for the phase-three housing. DALRRD had indicated that the occupation certificates had delayed the allocation of houses to beneficiaries.

Mr Nigel Titus, Spatial Planning and Environment, City of Cape Town, said that DALRRD had asked the City to assist in processing the occupation certificates. They were being attended to and hopefully would be finalised soon, provided that the units were compliant.

The Chairperson asked how long the City had been processing the certificates, and how long processing such certificates normally took. Claimants had said that they had been waiting since June. It would be worrying if the certificates were the only factor that had caused such a lengthy delay. 

Mr Titus replied that he did not know the exact dates, but he would provide a written response.

The Chairperson asked parliamentary legal services to explain how POPIA prevented the Committee from obtaining information about claimants from DALRRD, and to explain how the obstacle could be removed.

Adv Romeo Maasdorp, legal adviser, Western Cape Provincial Parliament, said that he could not speak to the specifics of individual claims. Some claimants had indicated in their submissions that they understood the spirit of POPIA, and he thought that the Committee was very familiar with the legislation. In general, the claimants had voluntarily provided personal information to DALRRD, so that DALRRD could process that information for a specific purpose. DALRRD could not pass on that information, or process it further, unless it had the consent of the claimants in question. Thus it made legal sense for DALRRD to withhold the information.

To Mr Salie’s earlier point, Mr Marran sought to clarify that he had no reason to disbelieve Mr Salie when he said that his claim had been lodged in 1996. He was not sure whether the claimants had seen DALRRD’s responses to the written submissions, but, according to DALRRD, any claim with a reference number beginning with “R9” had been lodged after 1998 – indeed, had been lodged after 2014. Mr Salie’s reference number began with “R9”, although the claim had been lodged in 1996. This linked to the point raised by other members of the public – it seemed that when the initial claimant died, the relatives who inherited the claim had to be registered as new beneficiaries. Most of the people who had made submissions said that they had lodged claims before 1999, but several had reference numbers beginning with “R9.” He was not sure what had happened within DALRDD – had DALRRD lost the original documents and reopened the claims with “R9” reference numbers? This was troubling, and seemed to reflect a “huge blunder” by DALRRD.

He said that DALRRD’s responses should be passed on to the claimants. The claimants could then tell the Committee whether DALRRD had previously informed them of these requirements or explanations. For example, on some of the submissions, DALRRD had responded that the claimants needed to provide their reference numbers – had those claimants been aware of that? It was unfair to claimants that their claims were outstanding three decades later. He was not surprised that the Constitutional Court had ruled that pre-1999 claims had to be prioritised. Some of the original claimants had died – it even seemed that some of the next generation had died – and he was not sure how long they would have to wait to receive restitution.

Mr Brinkhuis said that the Committee should ask DALRRD to confirm the earliest date, either late in the current year or early next year, that DALRRD could meet with the Committee.

The Chairperson replied that the Committee had written three or four letters trying to schedule a meeting with DALRRD. It had written on 8 April, 5 May, 8 May, 12 May, 26 July, and so on – it had been communicating regularly with DALRRD. The Committee would persist. The key issue was that there had to be communication between DALRRD and the claimants, and the Committee was trying to facilitate that. Particularly relevant here were the outstanding pre-1999 claims – the Committee did not have the details on post-1998 claims.

Mr A Van der Westhuizen (DA) said that the oral submissions, and the delays in the land restitution process, were “heart-wrenching.” He could only attribute the delays to “complete incompetence.”

He thought that occupation certificates required several other compliance certificates, for example for electrical, plumbing, and engineering. Could the City of Cape Town specify whether all those compliance certificates had been submitted as required? If any were outstanding, which? That would help the Committee to pinpoint the problem in order to help solve it.

The Chairperson asked the City to respond to Mr Van der Westhuizen’s questions in its written response.

The Chairperson said that some people had made written submissions as well as oral submissions, and DALRRD had provided written responses to those. However, due to POPIA, the Committee would not discuss the responses in the meeting – it would send an individual response to each person. The most important thing for the claimants to understand was that the provincial government did not have a mandate to implement land reform and restitution. However, the Committee was concerned that there were 94-year-old people still waiting for houses in District Six, and housing was within the province’s mandate. The provincial government could not commit to, for example, building houses in District Six – that was DALRRD’s job. However, the Committee would try to get answers from the national government, and ensure that those answers were communicated to the claimants. It was very sad that the claimants had been waiting for so many years, especially with such poor communication – if there were delays, it was even more important for government to communicate clearly with claimants, to include them in the process. The Committee would follow up with DALRRD and the Commission on behalf of claimants, while complying with POPIA. It would thus try to facilitate communication between claimants and DALRRD. It would also follow up with the City of Cape Town on the occupation certificates. It would update the claimants regularly, and would discuss their cases further with them, and that might help to accelerate the District Six land restitution process.

Mr B Herron (GOOD) said that the situation was obviously “a crisis.” It was “heartbreaking” that claims from before 1999 were still outstanding. The claimants’ complaints were not new, and there was something seriously wrong with the structure of the land restitution process. The Committee needed to engage directly with DALRRD to address the complaints, before another 20 years passed without any progress. The Committee needed to find a more meaningful way forward than just listening to claimants’ complaints.

Mr Van der Westhuizen thanked complainants for attending. Their complaints were not new, but he thought that the reminder was valuable. It was quite touching to hear about elderly complainants – everybody had parents and grandparents and could empathise. Addressing the wrongs of the past was at the centre of land restitution, and it was a pity that those efforts had been “thwarted.” Members would do what they could to assist.

Mr Marran said that he was a member of the ANC, but that it was important to “speak truth to power” when the national government was failing its people. In this matter, DALRRD had failed the claimants. It was not fair that they had been waiting for houses since 1998. He had heard that one of the claimants lived in Worcester, which reflected the extent to which forced removals had scattered the District Six community. The government had to ensure that it delivered restitution, and kept its promises, before more claimants died. He thought it was important for the claimants to see DALRRD’s responses to their written submissions, and then perhaps they could tell the Committee whether DALRRD’s responses were accurate and legitimate. He did not understand how DALRRD could respond to submissions by saying that the claimant had to provide a reference number – that implied that DALRRD had lost the relevant information, and that it was now the claimant’s responsibility to supply it. Claimants had put their trust in the Committee and it should not disappoint them.

Mr Brinkhuis said that the Committee could not tolerate further delays from DALRRD – with claimants having waited for two decades, the Committee could not wait two decades for DALRRD to brief it. Instead of waiting for the national government, and instead of waiting for next year, the Committee needed to work out a strategy before the end of the parliamentary term. That morning, he had been in a meeting which the national Department of Home Affairs had declined to attend – it seemed that the national government had a tendency not to respond to the provincial legislature on such issues.

Mr Malusi Booi, City of Cape Town Councillor and Mayoral Committee Member for Human Settlements, said that the City would continue to do its best to assist District Six claimants. The delays were “a pity.” He suggested that the issue could be escalated – for example, the Premier could take it up with the President.

Mr Francois de Wet, Chief Financial Officer, Western Cape DHS, said that the provincial DHS would do its best to assist wherever possible, although the land restitution process was driven by another department in another sphere of government.

The Chairperson thanked the claimants for attending. She said that such hearings reminded government that its work was about its effect on the communities it served – in this case, especially pertinent were the expectations of those communities. In such a situation, it appeared that the entire government had failed its people, although, in this case, the failure resided with the national DALRRD, and the provincial government could not help unless it was asked to. As she had said, the Committee was here to try to facilitate better communication. The provincial government built thousands of houses each year, and Mr de Wet had just said that the provincial DHS would assist DALRRD if asked. Why not recruit the provincial government to help implement the housing part of redevelopment and restitution projects? Instead of correcting past wrongs, the national government was making District Six families relive again and again the feelings that they had had under the apartheid government.

A member of the public apologised for the frustration of the claimants. They were not frustrated with the Committee, but with the wider restitution process. It seemed that the claimants and the Committee had the same problems communicating with DALRRD. He thanked the Committee for listening to claimants’ submissions – it had felt like a counselling session.

The Committee adjourned for a five-minute break.

Committee resolutions

Mr Marran said that it was important to note the City of Cape Town’s response to the Chairperson’s question about the occupation certificates. The City had received a request to process the certificates, but its delegates did not know when, and they also did not seem to know how advanced that process was. He thought that was unacceptable.

The Chairperson said that the Committee would wait to receive the City’s written response to her question, and would take it from there.

Mr Van der Westhuizen agreed. He suggested that the City should also provide the dates of any correspondence between DALRRD and the City, so that the Committee could confirm, for example, whether the City had timeously communicated with DALRRD about any compliance certificates that might have been outstanding. With that kind of detail, the Committee could take the necessary corrective action if the City turned out to have caused delays.

Mr Herron said that the occupation certificates for the third phase of redevelopment were a small component of a much bigger problem, and that problem had to be confronted in a more holistic way. The Group Areas Act had been repealed in 1991 – 30 years ago – yet District Six remained a monument to that legislation, as an underdeveloped space in the inner city to which thousands of claimants were waiting to return. As the public submissions had reflected, many claimants had died waiting. He was not sure what the answer was, but it was necessary to ask whether DALRRD’s current development model was the correct approach. The pace of development had been so slow as to be “meaningless.” It was also necessary to deal with certain inconsistencies in the approach. For example, there had been different models of ownership under different phases of the redevelopment, which seemed “fundamentally unfair.” Those who received restitution under the first phase had actually paid for their units, and now had mortgage bonds to pay off, while the beneficiaries of the later phases had not paid. The Committee needed to engage with DALRRD and the Land Commission to understand both of these points.

The Chairperson said that the Committee would send DALRRD’s responses to each of the claimants who had made submissions. It would also ask the claimants whether DALRRD’s responses had ever been communicated to them in the past, and would deal with the POPIA technicalities. The question was what the Committee should do after that. How would it follow up on the responses? Would it reopen the public submissions, perhaps until the end of January? Some claimants had written to say that they had not had time to make a submission during the limited window advertised. Members had also said that the Committee should meet with DALRRD before the recess, and Mr Herron had now suggested a meeting with the Land Commission.

Mr Herron said that, in the absence of communication from DALRRD, the Committee needed some form of “access or entry point” so that it could understand the development model and the potential for changing that model. He suggested that the Land Commission could be such an access point – the regional head of the Land Commission in the Western Cape was usually quite cooperative.

Mr Van der Westhuizen agreed. However, he thought that the Committee should also continue to invite DALRRD to brief it. It should also keep writing to the national Minister, because only the Minister could provide the necessary answers about the rationale behind the current development model and other pertinent matters raised by Mr Herron. Perhaps the Committee could ask DALRRD to propose a date for a meeting.

The Chairperson said that the Committee had already been taking that approach. In her letters, she had always given DALRRD an opportunity to propose a date which would be suitable for its representatives. Most recently, she had written to DALRRD about the present meeting and about the oversight visit that the Committee proposed to take to District Six – DALRRD was the custodian of the relevant land parcel. To that letter, DALRRD had sent the reply that she had mentioned at the beginning of the meeting, in which it acknowledged the invitation but recommended that the Committee should approach the NCOP, since members of the national executive accounted to the national legislature. She read the letter aloud.

She said that it seemed as though DALRRD had sent a generic letter which it sent to all committees which wanted to engage with it. Her letter to DALRRD had not mentioned the Minister’s presence – she had only asked, and the Committee only wanted, for DALRRD officials to attend. The Committee would continue to write to DALRRD, but this response seemed to instruct the Committee to approach the NCOP instead of communicating with DALRRD directly. She asked Adv Maasdorp for advice about how the Committee should reply to DALRRD’s letter.

Adv Maasdorp replied that it was difficult for him to respond in the absence of a pertinent legal question. However, mindful of the Committee’s limited mandate, he believed that, in this instance, the Committee should stay far away from the notion of “oversight.” Oversight was not the right angle. It would also be imprudent for the Committee to use an information-gathering exercise to extend its mandate – that would create undue expectations. It seemed as though information from DALRRD was not forthcoming, and he thought that Mr Herron’s suggestion to meet with the Land Commission was a good one. Apart from that, he thought that the Committee should exhaust the available institutional routes. The District Six claimants were obviously frustrated, and their frustration could be ventilated politically. Possible forums included MINMEC, meetings between the premiers, and the plenary sessions. Finally, as Members had suggested, the Committee could get DALRRD to commit to a meeting by asking it to propose a suitable date.

The Chairperson said that, in its correspondence with DALRRD, the Committee had only used the word “oversight” in reference to its proposed oversight visit to District Six. Was Adv Maasdorp advising the Committee not to make that visit?

Adv Maasdorp replied that the Committee’s mandate allowed it to conduct any fact-finding site visits that it wished to conduct. However, “oversight with a capital ‘O’” was outside its mandate in this case – the national Minister did not account to the Committee.

The Chairperson concluded that the Committee’s next step was to meet with the Land Commission. Should it schedule that meeting for the current parliamentary term, or for early in 2022?

Mr Herron and other Members said the latter.

The Chairperson said that the Committee would send Members the submissions it had received from claimants, as well as any further correspondence from claimants. She thanked all attendees, and said that the Committee should try to make the District Six community proud.

The meeting was adjourned.  


 

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