After waiting nearly 20 years since the land restitution process was opened, the Solomon family from Cape Town are finally set to have their land in Constantia returned. The family, which has roots going back 300 years in the Cape, first moved to the Constantia area in 1902, after buying the piece of land during an auction at the Grande Parade. The land was developed into a farm, which the Solomon family occupied for 65 years, until Constantia was declared a ‘white area’ under the apartheid Group Areas Act, and the family forced to sell the land.
The family’s representative, Rashaad Solomon, said the family submitted an application as soon as they were made aware that a restitution process was being planned.
“As soon as I heard about the process, I wrote a letter to the department. I was subsequently informed that I had to fill in a formal application, which I did, and that was in 1996. It went through the process and carefully examined, each and every document, to prove we were the heirs of the original owner, which was my grandfather Hajji Abdullah Solomon,” he explained.
Solomon said the claim was discussed with the then regional commissioner of the Western Cape, who informed him that there were two ways of going about the issue. He said the families options were to take the issue to court, or to handle it through the commission, the latter of which would take a longer period of time.
“We opted for the direct route, which was going to court. It was a very expensive process, but we were determined because the land was a sensitive issue, and we really treasured it,” he said.
An out-of-court settlement was then agreed upon in 2010 in which the City of Cape Town agreed to transfer the land.
Solomon claimed that at the time, more than 60% of the land in the Constantia area belonged to families of colour, most of whom where Muslim and coloured. Families such as the Sadiens, the Brenners, Solomons, Damons and Fergusons amongst others were initially involved in establishing the masjid in the area. He said there was a sense of solidarity amongst the community, calling it “one big family in Constantia”.
Solomon advised other land restitution claimants, to not opt for financial payment, but rather to go for the land which rightfully belonged to them.
“I hope the authorities will assist us in redeveloping that land, so that the beneficiaries and each and everyone, can benefit from it. Today, from a farm that produced vegetables and fruit, it has now been reduced to a dump. I hope the authorities take heed of this, to help each and every family in Constantia,” he said.
The handover ceremony takes place on Saturday afternoon at the Hilton Hotel in the CBD. VOC (Mubeen Banderker)
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The Solomon family, whose roots in Constantia go back approximately 300 years, are finally a step closer to getting three and a half hectares of land to be officially handed over to them in terms of South Africa’s Land Restitution Act. On Thursday morning, Rashaad Solomon received word that the Rental Clearance Certificate has been granted, a document that has been delayed in processing for several years.
It has so far been a 15-year battle for the Solomon family in their attempts to get back their land in Constantia. However, the new move meant that the title deed to the now-vacant property should ideally be transferred to the family in a matter of days. Solomon’s grandfather bought the land at an auction in May 1902 for nearly 1000 Pounds.
It became self-sustainable, as vegetables were farmed and animals were bred on the land. Upon the vast pocket of land was also an 11-room Victorian style house, cottages for farm workers and homes for the entire family – a total of 32 houses. After his grandfather died, his grandmother and her six sons took care of the operations on the land.
“It remained in their possession until they were forced from the land,” explained Solomon. “My uncle used to teach all the children the deen and the Quran. They mainly concentrated on how to build up a community and how to support a community, which was then supported from that particular property.”
Solomon said the family and workers on the property were very focussed on their salaah, and doing everything according to Islam. “When they went into the lands after Fajr in the morning, they started working in the lands as the sun rose until about before Thuhr,” he said, recalling the family’s history. They would then have a meal and rest before returning to work.
“They then stopped and went home for Asr salaah and remained at home. They based that on the principle that you start in the morning when the sun rises and stop as the sun goes down. But the order of the day was the salaah – that was inculcated into the entire family.”
However, everything the family had worked for and built up was destroyed in 1976 after the Group Areas Act had come into effect. They were forced to sell the land to white people, and the family had subsequently gone their separate ways, all living in different areas such as Grassy Park and Lansdowne. After the demise of apartheid the Solomon family then submitted their application in terms of the Land Restitution Act.
“That application was submitted on 28 May 1996 and the claim was acknowledged on 23 September 1996,” explained Solomon. “Four months later it was acknowledged that the claim met the requirements in terms of the Land Restitution Act. It is now nearly 15 years later that we have been struggling with various forms of documentation and presentations in order to get the land back. I don’t understand where this all comes from.”
Several years ago the family pursued the matter in court, but an out-of-court settlement was then agreed upon two years ago in which the City of Cape Town agreed to transfer the land. Now that the property has been cleared of all outstanding rates costs, the family is hopeful that the actual transfer would take place swiftly.
“It will only be proper to allow the family to bring back what the family enjoyed previously,” said Solomon. “In terms of the Land Restitution Act, it is our right to be on the land and that should be respected.” VOC (Faatimah Hendricks)