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Friday Feb 22, 2013

Fresh battle over District Six project

Yes another row over District Six is brewing with next year's February deadline for all claimants to return seeming more unlikely.

Only 138 houses have been completed in two pilot phases. What was supposed to have been a fast-track phase for an additional 950 homes is also a year behind schedule. In 2011, President Jacob Zuma set the deadline for more than 2 600 claimants to return to the area.

So far, only 62 claimants have returned.

One of the main activist groups for restitution, the District Six Beneficiary and Redevelopment Trust, says it is concerned about the government's ability to return people to the area.

Trust chairman Anwah Nagia said the main obstacle has been who would control the redevelopment.

"The trust acknowledged that it did not represent each and every claimant, the trust was also not set up as a developer but as an activist organisation advocating for the rights of the community. The government is incapable of delivering District Six..."

He was responding to a fullpage newspaper advertisement by the Department of Rural Development and Land Reform.

The advertisement explained how a reference group of 20 claimants was established to peruse the business plan and look at the social issues for those returning.

A task team with local, regional and national government representatives and the trust agreed that a special purpose vehicle (SPV) company had to be set up to drive the redevelopment with claimants as shareholders. A year later the company has still not been set up while the R700 million needed for the 950 homes was still with national government.

Spokesman for the Rural Development and Land Reform Ministry Mtobeli Mxotwa said the SPV company would be formed by July. Bulk services would have to be installed, roads built and tenders advertised before a construction company is appointed.

He said the government was ready to allocate the R700m but would only release the money to the SPV company.

The advertisement also stated that Rural Development and Land Reform Minister Gugile Nkwinti had mandated the reference group to handle the future development while the trust had to finalise the outstanding issues in the pilot phases.

The trust said this meant they were being sidelined and questioned how the reference group was elected.

Mxotwa said there was no intention to sideline the trust and that the reference group was chosen by claimants under the direction of Nkwinti.

Nagia said: "We were meant to have an annual general meeting of all claimants to decide who would be part of the SPV. We agreed to this process in the interest of getting the development done. The minister has now given the reference group carte blanche over everything by saying they should drive the process ahead. That is a betrayal of the trust because historically we have been at the forefront of the process."

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