District Six resumes normal service as a political football

24 August 2018 - 17:26 By Aron Hyman
The Department of Rural Development and Land Reform has denied any deal has been made with the Western Cape housing committee.
The Department of Rural Development and Land Reform has denied any deal has been made with the Western Cape housing committee.
Image: Facebook/Wildebeestkuil Farm

After being the subject of a “landmark” agreement between all three tiers of government on Tuesday‚ by Friday District Six was back to being a political football.

The Western Cape housing committee said the Department of Rural Development and Land Reform was “misleading the public” by claiming no agreement had been reached on resettling people on land cleared in the 1970s during one of apartheid’s most shameful and enduring episodes.

Earlier in the week‚ committee chair Matlhodi Maseko said a deal with the department’s director-general‚ Rendani Sadiki‚ would see funding for the reconstruction of District Six transferred to the provincial government.

On Thursday‚ the department denied any such agreement and said Sadiki did not have the power to authorise such an agreement.

During a press conference on Friday‚ Maseko said Sadiki had informed the committee that as the department’s accounting officer she was authorised to make the decision which would see national government working with the provincial government and the City of Cape Town to end the long wait for restitution by District Six land claimants.

“I am gravely concerned that the department is backtracking on its commitment made to the community of District Six‚ who have already waited 20 years to be returned to their beloved community‚” she said.

“During the standing committee on Tuesday... the national department agreed to work together with the provincial Department of Human Settlements‚ permitting it to complete phase three of the housing for the District Six restitution programme.”

Speaking to TimesLIVE‚ Sadiki would not confirm any agreement on Friday but said she was surprised when she saw a DA press statement about discussions in the meeting.

Because one of several District Six claimant groups had taken the department to court‚ the meeting was held behind closed doors‚ she said.

“It is a sensitive issue and really I thought the DA would have treated it with that sensitivity. Secondly‚ I thought I was meeting the provincial government‚ not the DA.

“There was no agreement. This is what happened: as we were concluding‚ they were complaining that the minister didn’t show up‚ so I said to them I am the accounting officer‚ the minister was involved in a cabinet meeting so she couldn’t go so I would go to represent the department.

“I said to them that we need to sit together and agree on a mode of delivery and I said to them please give us time to come back to you at the end of September‚ after having entered into discussions with all the interested parties.”

Maseko said during a provincial legislature sitting on Thursday she commended the standing committee. “As during the standing committee‚ ANC and DA members alike agreed to this. There was clearly no misinterpretation‚” she said.

“We look forward to the engagement at the end of September with the national department and we would like to invite the minister to be present at our next standing committee so that she can address the District Six community’s needs.

“The Democratic Alliance in the Western Cape remains committed to clearing the stench of apartheid spatial planning. We do not want this commitment to be jeopardised because of politicking.”