Stench of tainted history

Nasser Solomon, trustee, Hadji Abdullah Solomon Family Trust

I apologise for my late response to your emails. I’ve been travelling and had limited access to my Solomon Trust email account.

The letter and articles (“Move on drop-off site,” Bulletin August 2) pertaining to the development of the Solomon land on Ladies Mile Road refers.

Please allow me to start by stating that the Constantia Ratepayers’ and Residents’ Association (CRRA) morphed out of the old Constantia Property Owners’ Association (CPOA) that was established in 1950 during the apartheid era.

The CPOA represented white / apartheid interests and was part of and complicit in the execution of repressive apartheid legislation that dispossessed and forcibly removed non-white families from their properties in Constantia during the 1960s and onwards.

So, as a Constantia ratepayer and resident, I find it hard to take them seriously or associate with the CRRA, until they make a more concerted effort to shake off the stench of their tainted history.

The CRRA manager, John Hesom, makes a ridiculous comment about the Solomon development’s heritage impact assessment.

I would like to invite Mr Hesom and Yvonne Liebman, the CRRA attorney, to perform an economic and social impact assessment of forced removals from Constantia on the lives of the victims.

Mr Hesom and Ms Liebman should also do the math on the loss of generational wealth for families who lost their livelihood and who were forced to relocate to Mitchell’s Plain before they criticise the development plan for being income generating.

Once they’ve completed the assessment and presented the findings at their annual general meeting, I would consider joining the CRRA and contributing the annual membership fees.

Ms Liebman knows full well that out of the entire Constantia population, there were less than 60 objections to the proposed development and that all of the objections were addressed according to due process.

She also knows for a fact that the application process was followed to the letter and passed through the City council, a tribunal of technical experts as well as the mayor’s office.

In my humble opinion, Ms Liebman and Mr Hesom represent a vocal minority with a narrow interest and they are trying to disguise their narrow agenda with nonsense about heritage impact assessments and non-compliance with public participation.

They are on the wrong side of history and, meanwhile, those who were evicted are getting older and more frail.

I would encourage the CRRA members to spare a thought for the elderly who were forcibly removed and to put yourself in their shoes for a minute.

Those with memories of their Constantia homes and lives are 60 years of age and older and they are waiting in anticipation for some form of financial redress for the years of economic hardship wrought upon them by apartheid laws that benefited many CRRA members.

The Solomon family know for a fact that the CRRA is using delay tactics to try to stall the inevitable.

My mother was born and grew up on Ladies Mile Road until she was evicted at age 24. She died on Sunday May 27 this year, and she never got to see closure with this land claim after more than 20 years of struggling.

Mr Hesom and Ms Liebman, as human beings, I beseech you to consider how your delay tactics add injury to insult for many people who are victims of the apartheid system.

The executive committee of the CRRA responds: Firstly it must be said that it is a pity that Nasser Solomon has adopted a stance to make personal attacks on the CRRA manager John Hesom and the attorney representing the CRRA, Yvonne Leibman.

The CRRA’s business is managed by an executive committee, which is appointed by its members on an annual basis.

The CRRA’s manager, John Hesom, and its attorney in the legal challenge, Yvonne Leibman, act in accordance with the decisions and instructions of the executive committee.

The CRRA represents approximately 1000 members from all walks of life. One of the CRRA’s main objectives is to conserve the beauty, rural character and natural environment of Constantia for the benefit of all Capetonians and visitors.

It is simply not true that the CRRA (previously CPOA) represented apartheid interests or was involved in the execution of apartheid legislation.

It is also incorrect that the application process was followed to the letter. The focus of the CRRA’s legal challenge is the lawfulness of the decision (which involves the process) as taken by the City of Cape Town. This question will be decided by the Western Cape High Court after the legal challenge has been heard.

Most important is the fact that the Solomon families are delaying the hearing of the review application.

The CRRA’s attorney and our senior counsel have respectively approached the Solomon’s attorneys and their senior counsel to obtain their agreement that an expedited date for the hearing of the matter be obtained.

On both occasions, the Solomon’s attorneys and their senior counsel replied that their clients are not prepared to agree to an expedited date for the hearing of the matter.

The CRRA has consistently been in support of the land restitution processes and has openly engaged with the Solomon’s family. However, that does not imply that the CRRA should not challenge an unlawful decision particularly when this decision will have a negative impact on Constantia and its valuable contribution to tourism and as a recreation destination for all Capetonians.