District 6 restitution committee chairperson dies of heart attack

Shahied Ajam | Image: Twitter

He was buried in accordance with his faith on Saturday.

The District 6 Working Committee in Cape Town said it is shocked by the death of its chairperson, Shahied Ajam, on Saturday.

“Shahied was one of the great humanitarian leaders of our city and a man who will go down in history as a visionary who brought tangible restitution and hope to the people of District 6,” a statement said.

“The 3 500 members of the D6WC mourn his loss even more deeply knowing that he will not see the fruits of his tireless, selfless labour, and his incredible achievement of bringing all three tiers of government together to make restitution a reality for the people of District 6,” committee spokesperson Karen Breytenbach said.

The public participation process related to the vision for a re-imagined District 6 was scheduled to resume in July/August 2020, and reconstruction was to commence later this year – dependent on the end of the lockdown.

“He was a mentor to many, including to his team, to the loyal beneficiaries he served, and many other dispossessed communities seeking restitution. He was one of the greatest men I ever worked with and many others feel the same. He was a moral giant and an inspiration to his people,” added Breytenbach.

The committee’s attorney, Nicki van’t Riet of Norton Rose Fulbright who worked closely with Ajam over the past three years to win final restitution in the Land Claims Court, said: “Shahied was a man who was born for a purpose and who lived with the profound intent of fulfilling his purpose. Shahied changed history by forging a solution which would start bringing people home to District 6.

“He changed not only the lives of the District Six community members, but has had a profound impact on the city of Cape Town. His behind-the-scenes tenacity with the D6 litigation process has set momentous legal precedent which will start changing lives of land claimants throughout South Africa.”

‘Especially tragic’

Agriculture, Land Reform and Rural Development Minister Thoko Didiza extended condolences to Ajam’s family and friends.

“Mr Ajam will always be remembered for his tireless work in pursuit of restitution for thousands of former District 6 residents whom he mobilised and represented with devotion and selflessness.”

She noted in a statement he contributed immensely to a redevelopment plan, which will see the return of almost 1 000 forcibly removed families to District 6.

“It is especially tragic that Mr Ajam will not see this come to fruition, having contributed so influentially and tirelessly to this cause.

“However, Mr Ajam’s passion and devotion to the District 6 community will endure. His legacy of action and activism for his community will always be etched in the fabric of District 6,” said Didiza.

Ajam was born in District 6 in 1958, but was forcibly removed with his family at the age of 16. He spent a large part of his adult life in Namibia where his three daughters still live.

He began his District 6 work in earnest in his early 50s and worked mostly without earning a salary and late into the night.

The statement from the committee said before he died he was involved in a project to provide food to up to 9 000 people per day in 10 impoverished communities in Cape Town during the lockdown.

He was 62-years-old at the time of his death. He is understood to have had a heart attack.

He is survived by his wife Waggieda Ajam, daughters Najma, Shakira and Nadia Ajam (all in Namibia), mother Shariefa Kamaldien, siblings Shudley, Adam, Ebrahiema, Kashief and Faldiela, stepchildren Najma, Wassiema and Sharief and five grandchildren.

He was buried in accordance with his faith on Saturday.

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