Community lashes out as government reveals District Six reconstruction 'plan'

Minister's 'vision' for apartheid victims an uneconomic 'insult'

12 May 2019 - 00:00 By STENDER VON OEHSEN

A vision for the reconstruction of District Six has emerged for the first time since 42ha of properties on the edge of Cape Town's city centre were obliterated by the apartheid regime.
The plan - drawn up over two-and-a-half years and yet to be formally approved - is revealed in an affidavit filed by land reform minister Maite Nkoana-Mashabane at the high court in Cape Town on Monday.
The District Six Working Committee, whose members are land claimants, has gone to court to force the minister to come up with a restitution plan.
Nkoana-Mashabane attached the 39-page plan prepared by urban designers CNdV Africa, the company appointed in October 2016 to provide technical advice on the redevelopment of District Six.
Most of the land has remained barren for half a century since the famously vibrant multiracial community that lived there was forced out and the buildings were razed.
The preferred plan shows a total of 5,926 new homes - some of which have already been built - almost equally split between 120m² "restitution" units and 75m² units that would be sold at market prices to fund the redevelopment.
The homes would be constructed on the old street plan, with New Hanover Street as the "primary element of urban structure", and would be either duplexes in row housing or eight-storey tower blocks with garages, shops and light industrial units on the ground floor.
The proposed row housing drew inspiration from CBD housing in San Francisco in the US, particularly with garden spaces and parking within buildings.
"A key challenge in the redevelopment of District Six, unlike when it was first developed in the 19th century and the main modes of transport were pedestrian and animal-drawn, is accommodating the motor car," says the draft plan.
"Claimants have quite understandably insisted that at least one [parking] bay per unit should be provided."
This, however, would limit the density of new homes to 73 per hectare, and space has become a problem. According to the documents, only 27.6ha remain available for the construction of homes.
This is because of the need to provide roads and open spaces, and because land has been transferred to the Cape Peninsula University of Technology (CPUT) and used for the first two phases of restitution housing.
The total cost of the project is estimated at upwards of R11bn - R2.4bn for the restitution of remaining claimants and R8.6bn for the general redevelopment of the area. The land reform department is offering only R351m due to "budget constraints", according to the affidavit.
These challenges and a reported delay in acquiring 5.6ha from CPUT mean the plan has not yet been finally agreed.
The minister's affidavit and development plan did not satisfy the District Six Working Committee, the organisation leading the court battle against Nkoana-Mashabane.
"They have no plan really," said chair Shahied Ajam. "There's no economic empowerment plan for the people. They don't even have an economic plan apart from the houses they say they want to build.
"I'm really disappointed. [The affidavit] once again insults the people of District Six, because they have had high hopes the minister would come with something tangible."
CNdV Africa MD Simon Nicks and the department declined to comment.
In November 2018 the court gave the department three months to produce a formal, comprehensive plan for the completion and restitution of District Six. According to Nkoana-Mashabane, this was not enough time due to the complexity and number of stakeholders. "The department, acting under legal advice, should never have consented to such an order without qualification," she wrote.
When the department missed its deadline, Nkoana-Mashabane was ordered to explain in court, but did not arrive. The court ordered her to submit an affidavit explaining what steps she had taken to complete the redevelopment plan and why she should not be held in contempt of court.
She cited unreasonable time constraints, financial burdens and the required "holistic process" as reasons why the plan was not ready in time, but admitted in her affidavit the department should have approached the court to formally request an extension.
The minister is due to appear in court next Friday to explain why her plan offers a solution, even though it remains incomplete.

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