Pretoria land invaders ordered to move
Pretoria - The North Gauteng High Court in Pretoria has ordered illegal occupants of Wallmansthal, north of the city, to vacate the government-owned land within 15 days.
Judge Joseph Raulinga issued a court order on Thursday compelling the occupants of Wallmansthal to demolish their structures and remove their belongings.
"I understand that the land issue is a very emotive one in our country and there is a genuine need. Government has put policies in place with regards to land restitution. We have to respect those policies," he said.
"We cannot take the law into our own hands. We have instances where greedy elements take advantage of the poor. That is lack of respect for the law."
The application was brought by the rural development and land reform department, which was busy transferring the land to successful claimants.
According to an earlier court order, no one was allowed to settle on the land until infrastructure had been installed.
Large numbers of people nevertheless started moving in, setting up informal dwellings on plots that were apparently unlawfully sold at R400 a piece to members of the public.
The judge said if the occupants did not vacate the land in the given timeframe, the sheriff and police would remove them and demolish their homes.
Chairperson of the legitimate Wallmansthal Communal Property Association (WCPA) Mathews Skosana said the court ruling should be effected to avoid illegal land occupations in the future.
"This is a landmark ruling by this court. Our greatest appreciation goes to AfriForum for standing by us through such a challenging moment. We now want to move forward and see the full implementation of the ruling."
Civil rights group AfriForum gave legal support to Skosana's group. Advocate Tames Molentze represented the rightful land owners.
Skosana was mobbed by a group of the WCPA members, who sang and danced in Church Square, adjacent to the court in central Pretoria.
The court proceedings were halted on Tuesday when another group arrived at the court, also claiming to represent the WCPA.
On Thursday, the court found that Skosana's group was the only one entitled to occupy the territory, and that any other occupants were doing so illegally.
Apart from vacating the land within 15 days, Raulinga ordered the illegal group to pay costs.
AfriForum head of community affairs Cornelius Jansen van Rensburg said the court had made a bold statement against illegal land grabs.
"This is a milestone ruling in our country. We could not sit by and watch the illegal occupation of land by the rival group, and we feel proud to be part of today's celebrations."
Rural development and land reform department spokesperson Eddie Ramakoloi Mohoebi said the court ruling should be adhered to before development projects were started on the land.
"We are going to allow the court action to be carried out by relevant stakeholders. We want the illegal occupiers to be monitored as they leave the place so that they will not destroy the government property," he said.
Mohoebi said law enforcement agents should investigate the allegations of fraud in the sale of the land.
"Police should investigate allegations that these poor people [who lost the case] were made to pay for the land, without any receipt being issued," said Mohoebi.
"We hear that funds totalling around R5m were collected from the illegal sale of land."
He said 744 families with legitimate claims would be accommodated on the piece of land concerned.