Land grab at fancy estate

2014-10-27 00:00

AN angry outburst followed a judge’s decision on Friday to evict illegal “land grabbers” who moved onto the private Beacon Hill estate in Bishopstowe.

They have 14 days to collect their valuables and leave.

If they don’t the sheriff will take steps to evict them.

The large crowd at court who had clearly hoped the judge would see things their way, left rowdily, fists raised and shouting angrily.

They said they will not go. They would “rather be shot and killed” than get off the land.

Judge Anton van Zyl told them the right to own private property — and to protect it — is a fundamental constitutional right.

“In an orderly society that right needs to be protected by courts. Society cannot afford, and courts will not permit, the disorderly appropriation of property of other individuals,” the judge said.

He said individual citizens also have a right to housing and occupation of proper residential sites.

Those who felt their rights were not properly recognised needed to approach the proper authorities, in this case Msunduzi Municipality.

If they continued to feel aggrieved they too can turn to the courts, and can apply for legal aid if they can’t afford it, he said.

The case was launched as an urgent application on October 17, but was initially adjourned after the judge asked for information from Msunduzi Municipality and the Legal Aid Board.

Representatives of both confirmed “this is an illegal land grab” and said the actions of the unlawful occupiers is “indefensible”.

Beacon Hill owner Andries Mostert said he bought the farm in 2006 to develop a residential estate. He has spent R60 million to date on infrastructure.

So far 140 plots have been sold and three sectional title stands developed on which 51 houses have been built. Of these 41 have been sold.

Before August he had only experienced “one or two minor intrusions”, but people left when asked.

When he and manager Bruce Malcolm noticed illegal dwellings going up on September 1, they approached the illegal occupiers who “pleaded” for time to find alternative housing. He gave them till September 10, but it became clear they weren’t leaving.

Mostert said he made an “inappropriate” decision — for which he now apologised — instructing his tractor driver to demolish a vacant dwelling. Instantly an angry mob descended, brandishing knives and pangas.

His tractor driver, Malcolm, and two security guards drove away in the tractor and a pick-up, but Mostert had to flee on foot.

After this “harrowing” experience neither he nor Malcolm returned, but from an elevated position observed the land invasion continue.

It was “astounding” how quickly the land was intruded on with “hundreds” of plots cleared for occupation.

The fence around the estate has been cut, antelope have “disappeared” and a fire on September 26 was suspected to have been caused by the land invaders.

•The case of another land invasion on municipal land in Otto’s Bluff, Woodlands and Northdale returns to court this week.

SIMPHIWE Mbanjwa, Msunduzi’s informal settlements manager, said the municipality has difficulty with the advent of malicious opportunists “seeking to capitalise dishonestly on government’s duty to provide housing”.

“Not only do they not need housing — because they have housing elsewhere — but they are seeking to jump the queue of legitimate applicants for housing, thereby prejudging the municipality, its housing programmes and bona fide [genuine] applicants for housing,” he said.

Msunduzi is prioritising housing for several informal settlements, including Jika Joe, where a fire recently resulted in many people needing emergency housing.

“The municipality’s resources are stretched to the extreme and there is no available land for … these unlawful occupiers whatsoever,” he said.

‘invaders are opportunists’

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