Couple lose home to squatters

2010-12-06 13:09

An elderly Pretoria couple has been forced to abandon their property in Sweet Homes, near Mitchell’s Plain after failing to evict 900 illegal squatters who invaded the land 20 years ago, the City of Cape Town said today.

According to the city the undeveloped 75?000m² plot was being occupied by about 900 illegal squatters who refused to move, despite the couple’s attempts over the past 20 years to evict them.

Steve Hayward, head of the City of Cape Town’s Anti-Land Invasion Unit (ALIU), said the property is “worth very little” because no one else will buy it.

“The Prevention of Illegal Eviction from and Unlawful Occupation of Land (Pie) Act 19 of 1998 states very clearly that all landowners are responsible for the protection of their own properties against land invasions and unlawful occupation,” Hayward said.

“By failing to take immediate action in removing squatters, the landowner faces huge legal costs in an eviction process that could take years to execute.

“Besides losing his/her land completely, he/she could also be held liable for the municipal legal expenses if action has to be taken in terms of the Pie Act.”

Hayward said the owner of a property in Haji Ebrahim Crescent in Athlone now owes thousands of rands in municipal arrears after failing to take action against 40 families who took illegal occupation of his 2000m² plot in 1990.

“He now owes thousands of rand in municipal arrears, which will have to be deducted from the eventual sale price before transfer can take place,” said Hayward.

In another case, in Goliath Estate, Kraaifontein, the owner of a residential property failed to evict a dozen shack dwellers when they first invaded the land 11 years ago. He is now unable to sell the property to a prospective developer who does not want to be saddled with the problem of evicting the occupants.

A recent court case, which set a benchmark in South African property disputes, concerned a privately-owned property in Moddergat, Gauteng, which was occupied unlawfully by 14?000 squatters for several years.

The case cost the landowner R1.2 million in legal expenses to evict the illegal occupants, and secure the property from future invasions.

In a separate case in Olieboom Road, Philippi, a landowner has been struggling to evict 600 families who have illegally occupied his 85?000m² erf since 1988.

“We had warned the owner long ago of the uncontrolled growth on his land and the actions that he should take.

“He now needs to appoint a lawyer to apply for an interdict to prevent further occupation of the land, and to appoint a security company to secure the property.

“All over the Cape metropole there are similar cases where private landowners are struggling to remove illegal occupants from their properties.

“Unfortunately the ALIU is only mandated to take action on municipal or provincial-owned land. We do not have the staff and resources to get involved on private property.”

The ALIU, established last April, removes about 400 to 500 illegal structures a month. The unit also takes action against illegal trading shelters, illegal additions to homes and new structures erected in backyards where no planning permission has been granted.

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