Bitter eviction battle goes to the dogs

2012-05-17 11:15

Jackob Dhlamini has been trapped in his own home by razor wire, come home to find his doors and windows welded shut, had his water cut off and been threatened by Joburg’s notorious Red Ants.

Dhlamini is embroiled in a bitter eviction battle with the man on whose Heidelberg farm he lives.

In the latest salvo, Dhlamini’s animals have been confiscated and his wife charged with animal cruelty.

“But I will not budge,” he said. “I will fight this farmer till I die. This is constructive eviction and I know my rights.”

Andre van Rooyen, who sold his farm last month, denies that calling in inspectors from the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SPCA) was part of his attempts to get Dhlamini off his land.

Van Rooyen freely admits, though, that he is desperate to get Dhlamini and his family off the farm he sold last month.

Dhlamini believes his family’s 32 chickens and two dogs were impounded because he refuses to move off the farm.

Dhlamini’s neighbour, Isak Nhleko, also had his animals – four sheep, a number of chickens and two dogs – confiscated.

Dhlamini’s wife, Emma Mcira, and Nhleko have been criminally charged under the Animal Protection Act, in what their lawyers believe is a rare use of the act’s provisions.

Mcira and Nhleko appeared in court for the third time yesterday.

The families were presented with a joint account of R125 000 that the SPCA is charging them to take care of the animals – and the account is rising by the day.

“I will not stand by while animals on my farm are abused,” an angry Van Rooyen told City Press. “It was not a strategy to get rid of the people. Tell me how the SPCA can evict someone.”

SPCA Inspector Ans Botha said the animals were confiscated because they had no water, were malnourished and had parasites.

She denied the SPCA had been used in a personal vendetta.

Dhlamini’s lawyer, Nathaniah Jacobs from Lawyers for Human Rights, said the animals were not in a worse state than other farm dwellers’ livestock.

“What bothers us is that the SPCA is using their powers to get involved in what is essentially a land dispute,” Jacobs said. “The families have lost not only their means of sustenance but are facing criminal prosecution and rising cost.”</p><p>The enmity between Van Rooyen and Dhlamini started when Dhlamini refused to leave the farm after being dismissed in 2008 by Van Rooyen.

Van Rooyen said Dhlamini was a “troublemaker” who was “drunk on the job”.

Van Rooyen’s lawyer, Jannie Geyser, said Dhlamini had nearly single-handedly scuppered the sale of the farm.

Dhlamini started working for the previous owner in 1996, and as part of his employment he was allowed to have 15 goats and a house on the farm.

“That man was like a father to me,” he said. “But he was old and had to move to town and Van Rooyen bought the farm in 2007.”

Van Rooyen and Dhlamini had a troubled relationship from the start and had a big fallout in the middle of November 2008. Dhlamini was fired and ordered to leave the farm.

Since then, the men have been engaged in a nasty battle. A court declared the eviction illegal, but Van Rooyen insists he is within his rights to remove Dhlamini from the farm.

Nhleko arrived home in February last year to find his homes surrounded by police and SPCA vehicles.

“They said nothing about malnourished animals. They only said they were taking the animals because the landowner said we didn’t have permission to keep them on the farm,” Nhleko said.

They returned later to take the Dhlamini’s livestock as well.

The SPCA’s Botha said she had visited the Dhlaminis four times to warn them about their animals’ condition, but the Dhlaminis deny this.

“She has only been to our house once,” they said.

Botha said it was up to the court to decide whether the Dhlaminis and Nhleko should pay the rising account of R125 000.

“I know they can’t pay it,” she said.

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