Council tells farmer to destroy land claim shack

2010-02-18 00:00

HOWICK farmer George Duncan Anderson finds himself in a catch 22 situation. He is caught in the middle of the actions of a labour tenant on his farm Shaymoya and the demands of the uMngeni Municipality.

Anderson and his labour tenant Florence Zondi have been locked in an acrimonious land claim dispute for several years. Zondi won her right to claim the land, although the matter is yet to be finalised by the Land Affairs Department. In the meantime, Zondi has erected what the uMngeni Municipality call an illegal structure on the property. No prior permission or plans were submitted in accordance with Town Planning regulations.

The municipality is demanding that Anderson, as the property owner, dismantle the structure. It has given him 21 days to do so,failing which he will have to pay a penalty of R100 a day for each day that the structure remains standing.

Anderson says he dare not venture anywhere near the Zondis. The last time he did so he ended up being charged for assaulting a family member. The matter went to court and he was found guilty. He has dispu­ted this verdict and, in an attempt to clear his name, he has a high court appeal pending in respect of the assault charge.

The beleaguered farmer says that, given the stress and trauma he has had to endure, there is no way he is going anywhere near the Zondi family, especially to dismantle a structure the family had erected. Anderson alleges that the illegal building houses informal settlers on the property.

To help him out of his legal quagmire, Anderson has had to engage the services of lawyers. He says that this ongoing saga has cost him thousands of rands over the years and, with the latest demand from the municipality, it is going to cost him a lot more. He has asked the municipality to take down the structure on his behalf, but was told that, since this was private property, it was his responsibility.

Anderson’s lawyer, Sandile Ngwenya of J. Leslie Smith, said the law imposes certain obligations on a registered landowner and, in dealing with the matter, he is ensuring that his client is in compliance with the law. However, given the complexity of Anderson’s situation, his first step is to ask the municipality for more time. Ngwenya said he has spoken to the officials at the municipality and they are currently negotiating an extension of time.

Steve Simpson of the uMngeni Municipality’s town planning section said he understands Anderson’s difficulty and will treat the request for more time sympathetically. However, he added that at the end of the day, Anderson, as the owner of the property, has to carry out the demolition.

Ngwenya confirmed that papers have been lodged with the high court for Anderson’s appeal against his assault charge and that he is also helping his client sort out the land claim. He said the matter was settled by the Land Claims Court with certain conditions that had to be met by the parties involved and the Land Affairs Department. At present the dispute is over settlement on the purchase price of the farm.

According to the court records, Anderson bought the farm in 2000 and in 2001 he allegedly tried to evict Zondi from the farm. In 2007 she took her matter to the Land Claims Court and won the right to be declared a labour tenant, this in turn allowed her to successfully lodge her land claim.

Attempts to get hold of Zondi’s son Robert, who has previously acted as the family’s spokesman, were unsuccessful.

 

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