Finally, land minister almost says sorry to District Six claimants
After spending nearly five hours answering questions in court on Friday, land reform minister Maite Nkoana-Mashabane finally admitted her department had not done enough for the people of District Six.
"Yes, I listened. Maybe I didn't listen as much as I do now," she said, adding that the proceedings in the Cape Town High Court had "opened her eyes" to how urgent the matter was.
"Twenty years is too long," Nkoana-Mashabane said while answering questions from acting judge Tembeka Ngcukaitobi, who pressed the minister on why it had taken so long for her department to solve the issue.
"The minister's concession in itself is a great victory," said Nicki Van't Riet, the lawyer for District Six Working Committee chairperson Shahied Ajam.
The late-afternoon apology was in stark contrast to the morning's proceedings, when Nkoana-Mashabane repeatedly deflected blame and refused to take responsibility for the District Six delays.
She said the department would need another three months before a tangible plan would be ready to show investors.
"An inference has to be drawn, that your department and your government made promises that they could not comply with," said Ngcukaitobi in response to the idea of extending the deadline, considering the department was ordered last November to draft a formal plan for District Six within three months.
"It was not deliberate," said Nkoana-Mashabane. "It would be incredible if that’s what the court found it to be."
Ajam said he hoped to know on Monday when Ngcukaitobi would deliver judgment on whether the minister should be found in contempt.
He was grateful for the minister’s attendance, he said, adding: "We also thank her for, towards the end, showing some remorse, and saying that she is sorry. We accept that 'sorry', except they must act now for the people of District Six."