Evicted Estcourt farm families turn to the courts

2013-08-30 00:00

THE 32 families who were evicted from an Estcourt farm have turned to the courts to reverse the order that saw them booted off the land.

The group of residents, represented by Lungisani Mtshali (32), said in papers filed in the Estcourt Magistrate’s Court that they had every right to remain on the farm.

They were not unlawful occupiers as they had been living there for more than 30 years, and had farming and grazing rights in addition to several graves on the farm, he said.

Represented by Pietermaritzburg attorney Sundeep Singh, Mtshali submitted that the application by farm owner Anne Markham was “frivolous and vexatious”.

Five families were evicted from the Wagendrift farm and their homes demolished after she obtained an eviction order.

Mtshali, a taxi driver, said he was born on the farm and had lived on it since then.

Fourteen members of his family were buried on the farm alongside 26 graves of other families. He lived on the farm with his wife and four children.

“My grandparents, my parents and I worked on the farm for the previous owners and were paid paltry wages.

“We provided labour in exchange for the grazing and cropping rights. Our cattle grazed on the farm,” said Mtshali.

They continued to enjoy crop and grazing rights, growing maize, pumpkin, cabbage and other vegetables, until Markham bought the farm.

He alleged that Markham cut the fence, allowing animals onto the farm that ate their crops. As a result, they were forced to buy food instead of living off their crops, said Mtshali.

Gcina Shabalala of the Landless People’s Movement said it was sad that one of the applicants died on Tuesday without knowing what will happen to her family.

“Shalazile Ndlovu passed away without knowing about the verdict of the case in court, and it is going to be difficult for the family.”

The matter was adjourned indefinitely.

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