After being forcibly removed from their farm in the 1960s and nearly a decade of frustration and toil, the Solomon family is finally reclaiming their land.
In 1999, the Solomon Family Trust applied to the Land Claims Court for the restoration of their land close to Ladies Mile, Constantia. The land, formally known as Sillery Farm, currently belongs to the City of Cape Town and the provincial Department of Public Works and has been transformed from a thriving farm into a council dumping site.
Solomon Family Trust spokesperson, Rashad Solomon remembers, "When my grandfather bought the land in 1902, he developed the land over a period of 60 years. They took away our home with the stroke of a pen and it took years for the land to be returned. They took away a beautifully developed farm and they destroyed it, and we are given a dump," he says.
... They took away a beautifully developed farm and they destroyed it, and we are given a dump ...
Rashad Solomon says he is concerned that the residents in Constantia will give his family a hard time. "When you think of the name Constantia you think of rich estates, but the people [currently] in Constantia were not born and bred here. They are 'incomers' and they don't know what it was like before. We had heritage as well but this has been destroyed," Solomon says.
He says the family must look forward, not backward. "It is impossible to restore the land to what it was, but it must be replaced. The original land was three hectares, but we will be receiving is 2,3 hectares from the city. Another hectare should be replaced as the land was separated by the M3," he says.
According to a Subcouncil 20 report of August 2005, the council agreed that the land in question be given back to the Solomon family on condition that they use the land for residential purposes only.
If they lease, alienate or otherwise encumber the property, they would have to refund the city an amount of R953 282.80, which is the current value of the land. The city paid R103 036 for this land in 1983.
We had heritage as well but this has been destroyed
Regional Land Claims Commissioner Beverly Jansen is clear on the matter. "The job is done from the side of the Land Claims Commission, and the Solomons claimants will be getting their land back. They will not be given an empty plot of land and be left on their own to develop the land. They will be getting houses. The city and the restitution committee will be assisting the claimants with grants to assist them with this development," Jansen says.
"While the Solomon Family Trust has been settled, there are various other [family] groups and tenant farmers who are also re-claiming land in this area.
"We do not call meetings with the entire family, but only communicate with the spokesperson of the group. They need to hold meetings with the rest of the family," she added.
Time is running out for many of the aging Constantia land claimants who are still to receive closure on this matter.
Many of them have already died while waiting on an outcome. Abdullah Solomon is still waiting.
We grew up in Constantia and were born and bred there.
"It was my grandfather's land in Constantia. We shared the same name and he was also Hadjie Abdullah Solomon. We grew up in Constantia and were born and bred there. We were living among the 'white' people then. We were living under good conditions. We had a farm there.
"We lived off the land, grew fruit and vegetables, and then sold it on the market," he remembers.
"It was in 1962 when I left Constantia. I can't remember clearly what happened, but I remember they came all of a sudden and we were moved to areas like Parkwood and Manenberg. Only those people that could afford to buy houses did," Abdullah Solomon says.
Councillor Neil Ross of Ward 62 says he is fully supportive of the principle of land restitution.
We lived off the land, grew fruit and vegetables, and then sold it on the market
"There are other claimants for land in this area. We have two other restitution claims that have reached a finalisation point in this ward- they are Gabriel Road and Protea Garden," Ross says.
There will be development on the land, and together with the ity and Land