Cracks in land restitution revealed
Capetonians who want their land back after it was taken during the apartheid era yesterday revealed cracks in the reclamation process.
Red tape was the biggest gripe among land claimants who had until 1998 to ask back their stolen land from the national land commission. Some claimants have been successful in their application, but red tape was holding up others.
Claimants had gathered at an event to commemorate the abolishment of the Land Act that came into law in 1913. This law had ensured that blacks, coloureds and Indians could occupy only 13% of the country’s land while the rest was reserved for the white minority.
Zubeida Samsodien from Hanover Park said her family was hopeful their “restitution claim will eventually be realised although the process has been very long”. She said they submitted their claim in 1998 for land in District Six.
Samsodien said she was ten years old when her family was uprooted from District Six. She said her family faced a similar fate as they were told the council flat they live in now does not belong to them.
“Our grandparents paid rent for 40 years in this flat and because it’s of the city’s rental stock we might have to move again. We were told we can’t own this because it was built for rent only,” said Samsodien.
She said former District Six residents were also concerned that The Fringe, a gentrified part of the inner-city, had been cut off from the area they were removed from.
“Our great-grandmothers lived in Commercial and Harrington Street which was part of District Six. Most of the land in District Six has been frozen for development until claims have been settled. It is a concern that people are building on it now then it is a violation of the restitution process,” she said.
Some land claimants like Robert Flandorp and his eight siblings have seen the end of a long tunnel though. Flandorp’s family had to give up their property when the government wanted to move in other displaced persons.
“In the 1970s people were removed from other areas and we were told the state wanted the land. We were not given alternative land at the time. We put in a claim and will sign transfer documents for land on Friday,” he said.
“We lost land and a house but we were given back a piece of land that we can now use for our family.”
Mayor Patricia De Lille and Premier Helen Zille met with the land claimants to “commemorate the centenary of the Natives Land Act of 1913”. This event was planned to highlight the “land restitution process as part of collective efforts to foster redress and promote reconciliation”.
De Lille called the Land Act the “original sin of racial oppression”.
“This law reserved 87% of South Africa’s land exclusively for white ownership, forming the basis of the later Bantustan policy and contributing majorly to the tragic consequences of dispossession and endemic poverty we have today,” she said.