Oldest living District Six land claimant turns 100, last wish is to die there

Mr and Mrs Khan lived with their six children in the Bailey Flats in Hanover Street, close to the Avalon Bioscope and owned the Bombay Café, also known as Dout’s Café, which was famous for its Indian and Cape Malay cuisine.

District Six’s oldest living land claimant Shariefa Khan turns 100 on the 25th of April., 2021. Picture: Supplied.

JOHANNESBURG - World War Two, the rise and fall of apartheid and the dehumanising forced removal of District Six residents - Shariefa Khan has seen it all and now, as she marks 100 years of life, she said her last wish was to die where she spent many years of her life - in District Six.

Born in 1921 in the North West town of Vryburg to Ahmad Khan Deshmukh and Gadija Mallak - who were Indian immigrants to South Africa - Khan, also known as "Mama" or "Aunty Riefa," moved with her family when she was seven.

Khan and her family first lived in Muizenberg, and later Kensington where her father had the first halaal butchery in the area before the now 100-year-old married her husband Dawood Khan, also an Indian migrant living in District Six.

The Khans lived with their six children in the Bailey Flats in Hanover Street, close to the Avalon Bioscope and owned the Bombay Café, also known as Dout’s Café, which was famous for its Indian and Cape Malay cuisine.

As she gears up to turn the big 100 on 25 April, Khan can still make a good, delicious samoosa, just the way she and Mr Khan did back then.

Just a year before the apartheid government declared District Six a whites-only area in 1966, the Khans sadly lost a daughter to cancer. A few years prior to that, they'd endured another tragedy when another daughter was killed by a drunk driver.

The Khans were forced to move to Rylands, along with tens of thousands of District Six residents who had to find new homes in the then newly-formed Cape Flats.

“We cannot forget the pain, anguish, dehumanisation, deprivation and degeneration, which the forced removals brought upon us. Now in my old age, I still remember the pain of seeing how our homes were bulldozed and the day my husband had to up a sign in the shop window saying it would be closing down," she said.

“No one will ever understand how painful it is to stand on a patch of waste ground where your house once was. I want to die in District Six - it’s my last wish.“

Khan's wish may still come true as she is still waiting to hear if she has made it onto the government’s shortlist for an apartment in Hanover Street as part of phase three of the restitution process. Although the process has been slow, she has never given up hope of returning to District Six in her lifetime.

“I always say we were poor but happy in District Six. I don't understand why they had to move us like criminals, the only thing we did wrong was not being white," she concluded.

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