Settlers: court grants eviction order

2011-04-08 00:00

THE 1 065 illegal occupants of privately owned industrial property at Shortts Retreat, Mkondeni, are to be evicted, against their will if necessary, by January 31, 2012, in terms of a high court order granted yesterday.

However, the court has also ordered the Msunduzi Municipality to “progressively” provide temporary housing and to relocate the informal settlers to Ambleton (at Fox Hill on Richmond Road) between July 1, this year, and January 31, next year.

If the settlers, however, fail to move by the deadline, the owners of the land are authorised to call on the sheriff of the high court or the police to assist with their eviction.

The anticipated “happy ending” to the legal battle over the eviction and relocation of the illegal settlers, which started in 2006, failed to materialise yesterday when their attorney Sundeep Singh (who was subsequently granted permission by the court to withdraw from the case) revealed that due to “political promises” allegedly made to them, the majority of the informal settlers were no longer willing to relocate.

This followed indications on March 25 that the occupants of the properties had accepted that they were illegally residing on the land and would willingly accept a move to Ambleton, if the municipality agreed to provide basic services and emergency housing.

Advocate Alistair Dickson, SC, for Msunduzi Municipality, said at the time that the municipality could and would implement such an order, despite “difficulties” which needed to be ironed out, including issues around funding and the fact that the settlers would be “jumping the queue” for temporary housing.

The court thereafter adjourned to enable parties to finalise the details.

The court yesterday was shown a document allegedly setting out the minutes of a meeting at Natalia held on March 3, attended by members of the informal settlement, MEC Ina Cronjé and Mayor Mike Tarr at which Cronjé indicated that she had been “touched” by the conditions under which the settlers were living when she visited the area to encourage people to register for voting.

Decisions allegedly taken at the meeting included undertakings that basic services would be provided for the informal settlement such as taps and toilets; and discussions were also held concerning the possible future installation of electricity and street lights; the possible purchase of the land in question and provision of permanent housing for the occupants of the land.

Judge Anton van Zyl did not deliver a full judgment yesterday, but simply granted the eviction order saying he would provide the parties with reasons later.

The court further ordered the illegal occupiers to pay the lion’s share of the legal costs of the long-standing dispute, with the municipality having to pay the costs of two hearings.

 

CITY Mayor Mike Tarr said the council takes note of the eviction order and will obviously abide by the ruling of the court, but wishes to make the following points:

•The case was not instituted by the municipality, but by the land owners.

•The municipality was only drawn into the case as a result of a decision by the appeal court, which stated in the event of an eviction being granted the municipality would need to make alternative accommodation available.

•The municipality has identified alternative accommodation at Ambleton and has also received agreement from the Department of Human Settlement to assist in the process of relocation.

Tarr said it is not municipal policy to evict people. “We are currently attempting to find a solution that is more acceptable to the persons who are being evicted. As part of this process, we are currently engaged with a number of other parties, who could assist. In the event that we are able to find a more suitable solution we would then be able to approach the court to alter their decision,” said Tarr.

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