Farmers face eviction

2013-01-14 00:00

CATTLE farmers who in 2004 were given grazing rights on parts of Slangspruit and Ambleton farms in Thornville face eviction because they illegally built houses there.

The Msunduzi Municipality has lodged a court application to evict more than 1 000 families living there and to demolish homes worth millions of rands.

Residents have until tomorrow to file objections in the high court in ­Pietermaritzburg before a final eviction order is issued.

A resident, Zanele Sithole, said she watched in horror on TV as family homes were demolished in Lenasia, Gauteng, last year, and she fears that she will suffer the same fate.

Several houses were still under construction when The Witness visited the area yesterday,

After the summer rains, the area resembles a postcard picture with sprawling green pastures dotted with posh houses atop hills that offer spectacular views to valleys in which cattle and goats graze freely.

Sithole, who had built a home worth an estimated R500 000, said she almost fainted when she received an eviction letter in November.

“I didn’t enjoy my Christmas because I didn’t know what the future holds,” she added.

She moved into her dream home with glass doors in 2011. She she says she owns several cattle.

Sithole, like many others in the area, said that as far as she was concerned the land was allocated to farmers. The eviction letter had taken her by surprise.

“If my house gets demolished, I don’t know where I’d go. Okay, maybe we were wrong and were not supposed to build homes, but we’re asking the municipality to have mercy on us. We are so scared because in Lenasia the government demolished houses that were as beautiful as these ones.”

Sithole’s neighbour, Mthokozisi Dlamini, who owns a large house with a big yard, said he had been sleeping badly since receiving the eviction letter.

He said he moved from Ashdown in 2011 to live in the area. “I came here because I’m a farmer.”

He had about R500 000 and had to take out loans to complete the house, he added. “All the money I had was spent building this house and I have nothing left.”

Dlamini’s neighbour is also building a double-storey house.

A resident who is representing the community, but declined to give his name, said none of the residents had title deeds to the land.

He said that after individual farmers had lodged a request for grazing land with the Department of Agriculture, the department gave them permission to build houses on the borders of the grazing land so that they could protect their fences and prevent vandals from stealing the wire.

Then there was an influx of people moving in from Imbali, Willowfountain, France, and other areas, he added.

The residents said they did not pay rates. Said one, “We applied for electricity directly to Eskom and we buy water from the municipality in water tanks because water is our basic right.” They also maintained the roads themselves.

They said they would approach the Human Rights Commission to help them fight the eviction order.

Msunduzi spokesperson Nqobile Madonda said the municipality first needed to establish who owned the land and consult various departments in the municipality before it could comment.

KwaZulu-Natal Department of Agriculture spokesperson Jeffrey Zikhali said the department would investigate the case because it seemed to have a long history.

“The current MEC [Meshack Radebe] wasn’t even an MEC at that time.

“I would have to get all the facts before I can make a comment. It sounds serious,” he said.

• gabisile.ngcobo@witness.co.za

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