Land minister Nkoana-Mashabane could be in contempt over District Six land claim no-show
On a morning when the District Six Working Committee and former residents of the area expected to witness government accountability and a future redevelopment plan, they once again heard that they will have to wait.
Minister of rural development and land reform Maite Nkoana-Mashabane failed to show up at the high court in Cape Town on Wednesday, delaying District Six claimants from hearing an actual plan for the redevelopment of the land that was taken away from them under the Group Areas Act during apartheid.
"To our dismay, we received correspondence from the minister to request a postponement to seek proper legal counsel," said Shehnaz Meer, acting judge president of the land claims court.
But it was not all bad news for the many District Six claimants packed into the courtroom after judge Meer and acting judge Tembeka Ngcukaitobi ruled that the minister would have to report to court on May 17.
"There is no adequate explanation for the inactivity," said Ngcukaitobi, alluding to the fact that the minister had ample time to prepare for court on Wednesday.
The court ordered the minister to provide an affidavit by May 6 explaining why she should not be held in contempt of court. She also must include steps she has taken or plans to take to fulfil the District Six redevelopment plan.
After the ruling, District Six claimants convened on the steps outside the high court to celebrate. "We are going home, to our land of District Six!" they sang.
Nkoana-Mashabane was ordered to appear in court on Wednesday after her department was unable to provide an adequate redevelopment plan for District Six by February 26.
"The evidence is incontrovertible that the plan [submitted] was not the one she promised to produce," said advocate Geoff Budlender, representing the working committee.
Budlender said the minister needed to be "put on the spot" to explain what was going on.
There are about 1,078 outstanding claimants waiting to be moved back into District Six.
The court will reconvene on May 17.