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Opening remarks by Deputy President and Chairperson of the IMC on Land Reform and Agriculture, David Mabuza, during the District Six oversight visit, Cape Town

Programme Director, Deputy Minister Skwatsha,
Minister of Agriculture, Land Reform and Rural Development, Ms Thoko Didiza,
Ministers in the Inter-Ministerial Committee on Land Reform and Agriculture,
Deputy Ministers,
Executive Mayor of the City of Cape Town, Cllr Geordin Hill-Lewis
Members of Provincial of Legislature of the Western Cape,
District Six Claimants and Beneficiaries present here today,
Distinguished Guests,
Ladies and Gentlemen:

Good morning! Goeie more! Molweni! As-Salaam Alaikum!
 
We meet here this morning in this historical piece of land, District Six, under the Table Mountain as part of the Western Cape Presidential Land Reform Programme.
 
The Inter-Ministerial Committee on Land Reform and Agriculture decided to conduct this oversight visit to the District Six Development Project to assess progress made thus far in the restitution process.
 
Our overall mandate as the Inter-Ministerial Committee on Land Reform and Agriculture, is to coordinate and implement measures to accelerate the redistribution of land. This includes working with all affected communities in speedily resolving their claims.
 
That is perhaps the important part of why we are in the Western Cape today, so that we meet, interact with and hear first-hand the concerns and challenges of the District Six land claimants and beneficiaries.
 
These are people whose families were forcibly removed from this area at the beginning of the twentieth century, when forced removals and marginalisation of affected communities took effect.
 
It is testament to our belief that what we discuss and agree on in our meetings, must be aligned with the lived reality by the people as well as be assured of a demonstrable impact of our interventions.
 
Our presence here, is a continuation of our quest to restore the human dignity of all communities that were stripped off of their land rights, through colonial conquests and successive apartheid policies and laws of segregation.
 
The visit also takes place a day after we observed the Human Rights Day, wherein we collectively affirm that human rights violation including those of land dispossession, shall never again happen in our country.
 
Earlier last year, as the Inter-Ministerial Committee on Land Reform and Agriculture, came to this province for the handover of land and title deeds to the Covie community within the Bitou Local Municipality who had similarly been dispossessed of their land.
 
This work is aligned to the restoration of human dignity as espoused in the Freedom Charter, the Constitution and also underscored in the Restitution of Land Rights Act of 1994 as amended.  
 
The Restitution Act is one of legislative instruments promulgated after our democratic breakthrough, as a measure to remedy the hardships of land dispossession to persons or communities as a result of past racially discriminatory laws.
 
There can be no doubt that restoration of land rights is an important component in the reconstruction and development of our country and it contributes to nation building and social cohesion.
 
Programme Director,
 
District Six remains one of the historic reminders of the pain and inhumanity suffered by the people through the draconian act of dispossession and forced removals that punctuated our country.
 
Here too people suffered the same fate and were evicted, displaced and lost land rights.
 
In February 1966, District Six was declared a White area under the 1950 Group Areas Act of the apartheid regime, thus cementing a series of forced removals that had begun in 1901, when District Six’s black residents were moved to Uitvlugt, a place that was later named N'dabeni, here in the Western Cape.  
 
To the claimants and beneficiaries, we know that before this disruption of your families’ lives began, yours was a multi working-class society, although impoverished, it was nevertheless a lively community of freed slaves, merchants, artisans, labourers and immigrants, living equally side by side.  
 
We also remember District Six as a diverse community, once known as the soul of Cape Town. It was renowned for its rich cultural life in its narrow alleys and crowded dwellings.
 
We can see some of these alleys stretching back as far as Woodstock today.
 
Whilst District Six can never be returned to its origin and perhaps historical set-up, dignity of the people of this community will be restored. As government across all spheres, we have joined hands in ensuring that this historical injustice is corrected.
 
The preservation and the restoration of land rights to the people of District Six, hallmarks the strides we continue to make as a country in redressing past injustices and in ensuring that spatial justice is also achieved.
 
This remains an important area of work for the democratic government to ensure restoration of land rights to affected community and the people.
 
We are pleased that in the course of the process of restitution and redevelopment of District Six, government has engaged with different stakeholders, in particular those representing the displaced and beneficiary District Six community.
 
We are therefore satisfied that our consultation and engagement processes have been all-inclusive. Consultation and dialogue is an important process in nation building.
 
Not everything will be resolved all at once. No matter how small the steps of progress we make, the dignity of the people of District Six and restoration of their land rights will be achieved.
 
That is why we thank all the representatives of the District Six claimants and beneficiaries for walking this journey with us. 

We acknowledge the delays in finalising this restitution and redevelopment process. District Six restitution process has been no different to similar cases.
 
This is representative of broader restitution challenges where there are issues on:
 
• verification;
• beneficiary disagreements;
• difficulties in consolidation of huge claims with historical communities that in most cases have scattered across the country;
• determination of power of attorneys in cases where families’ roots may need to be traced back; and
• Even the issue of different interest by the claimants.
 
Looked in their totality, these delays and complexities are administrative and not about government’s lack of commitment to land reform.
 
We note that there are families and communities that may have been rejected on technical grounds, at times due to their failure to present a coherent case because of generational gaps.
 
It is in this regard that as government we realised that restitution per se may not resolve our problems. We have since considered other forms of interventions to cater for this deficiency, and to ensure that even others who are land hungry are catered for.
 
To this end, government has established other land distribution measures such as Land Redistribution for Agricultural Development, Land Redistribution for Human Settlement as well as for industrial purposes.
 
We assure you that as government, we will continue to work together for the benefit of the people, the unity of our country and the prosperity of our nation.
 
Therefore, we wish to acknowledge the cooperation we have received from the Western Cape Provincial Government as well as the City of Cape Town, working together with the Department of Agriculture, Land Reform and Rural Development.
 
It is the clearest demonstration yet of our inter-governmental imperative, embedded in the Constitution, for the three spheres of government – local, provincial and national – to work together for the development and prosperity of all our communities.
 
Ensuring dignity of the people is not a matter for political point scoring, but a matter of human rights.
 
We are pleased that today, under the auspices of our Western Cape Presidential Land Reform Programme, 139 dwellings have been allocated to beneficiaries of this Land Restitution Programme, and the remaining 108 dwellings will be handed over once all processes have been completed.  
 
The 108 dwellings consist of apartment blocks and row houses and allow for easy future expansion.
 
We have been assured of the construction of the remaining 954 units that will be carried out in two major builds to be completed in December 2025. This will accommodate all remaining claimants.  
 
We are looking forward to removing the last remaining bottlenecks, together with the claimants’ representatives as well as the Western Cape Provincial Government and the City of Cape Town, towards a complete return of this historical piece of land to its rightful owners.
 
Let us continue working together in ensuring restoration of land rights for the claimants of Districts Six and protection of dignity for everyone else in our country.
 
Thank you.