The life and work of District 6 activist, Shahied Ajam, is being honoured following his sudden passing due to a heart attack on Saturday.
Western Cape Minister of Cultural Affairs and Sport, Anroux Marais said in a statement, “Shahied lead his organization, the District 6 Working Committee, in championing for the restoration of rights for those who were relocated under the Group Areas Act during apartheid. He was passionate about achieving restitution for those who had suffered under apartheid laws and he was determined to recapture the spirit and culture of District 6. His tenacity and dedicated approach saw him engaging various levels of government to ensure that progress was made.”
Ajam headed the District 6 Working Committee (D6WC), an organisation that has been fighting for restitution for District 6 land claimants. The D6WC played a large role in the renaming of Keizersgracht Street back to Hanover Street. In February this year, the land claims court ruled in favour of the D6WC. The ruling urged governments on all levels to work on a plan to develop District 6 and for the return of its residents. Later on, a multi-billion plan for the development of the area was approved.
Minister of Agriculture, Land Reform and Rural Development, Thoko Didiza said, “In recent times Mr Ajam, through his actions and work in consultation with the Department, the Commission for Restitution and other stakeholders, contributed greatly in pursuance of a Redevelopment Plan that is in the process of being implemented to see the return of almost 1000 forcibly removed families – back to District 6.”
Ajam was born in 1958 and was forcibly removed out of Rutger Street, District 6 under the Group Areas Act at the age of 16. The D6WC says Ajam started his District 6 work in his early 50s and worked many late nights without receiving a salary most of the time. During the lockdown, he was involved in a project to feed approximately 9000 people across 10 disadvantaged communities around the city.
The D6WC says that it will honour Ajam’s legacy by continuing the work needed to complete restitution work started by him.