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Monday Mar 01, 2010

Prime Cape Town land ready for restitution

Eight families booted off their property by the apartheid government seem set to move back on to prime land in upmarket Constantia before the end of the year.

When the Kherekar family was forced off the land they had farmed for more than a century, they were not even allowed time to reap their crops.

And overnight, they went from being well-off landowners running a thriving farm to being dumped in a council house without a ceiling or electricity in Lotus River.

But now, after an almost two decade-long battle for restitution, they are set to get their land back within months, says Pogiso Molapo, the city's manager of land restitution and social housing.

The Kherekars are one of eight families who are soon to reclaim land in the area bordered by Ladies Mile, Kendal Road, Spanschemat River Road and the M3. The land is has been valued at almost R26.5 million.

But first the land, which is owned by the city council, must be transferred to the Land Claims Commission before it can be returned to the claimants. It would then take six months or more for administrative procedures to be completed, said Land Claims Commission project co-ordinator Patrick Thembani.

Most of the eight families are descendants of small-scale farmers who either owned or rented their land, on which they cultivated fruit, vegetables and flowers, and kept livestock.

But although many of the claimants are old and grey, they are fortunate, since the land has never been developed and is owned by the city.

More than 100 other families whose land has since been developed, or is owned by the provincial government, are not included in the latest round of restitution.

Although government officials have claimed that the final handover to the eight families may take up to nine months, Kherekar, one of 11 brothers and sisters, said he had been told he would get the land back by March - but this appears to be the latest in a long line of empty promises.

Weekend Argus

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