Porritts'roads only on paper

2012-02-22 00:00

A SWARTBERG farmer has expressed concern at the “aggressive approach” by members of Snowdon Farm Trust, which is embroiled in a dispute with landowners over access routes to certain farms in the area.


The farmer, Francois du Plessis, a paraplegic, is the subject of an urgent interim interdict obtained in December last year by members of the Porritt family’s Snowdon Farm Trust.

The trustees are Bernice Porritt, wife of former business tycoon Gary Porritt, Jason Taylor, who is Porritt’s son-in-law, and attorney Frank-Joel Cohen.

Du Plessis maintains in a replying affidavit, filed in the high court in Pietermaritzburg yesterday, that that he is not a shareholder or director of the companies cited as respondents in the case, Chestnut Hill Investments and Dreamworld Investments. Instead, he maintains he was confused with Francois Talbot, a director of Dreamworld.

Du Plessis said that as a landowner in the area he was, however, concerned by the aggressive approach by Snowdon Trust to obtain a particular access route to farms to which access already exists via Lesotho.

The approach included issuing warrants of arrest against him and others and their appearance in court to face criminal charges.

In another opposing affidavit Marie “Francois” Talbot (in his capacity as a director of Dreamworld Investments) said there was no road along the route that Snowdon Trust claimed it had a right to use over the farm Beaumont (also known as Vooruitzigt), and no road over Vooruitzigt to the farm Constantia.

Accordingly, before these routes could be used, roads would have to be built.

He further alleged that any difficulties that Snowdon Farm Trust had were of its own making, because it had moved cattle on to the farm Berridale in November 2011 without first establishing what rights of access it had to the neighbouring farms. It had since removed the cattle.

Concerning allegations by Snowdon’s Jason Taylor that another reason the Trust wants access to Berridale is that it plans to develop a ski resort there, Talbot said this appeared to be an “afterthought” designed to bolster its case. Alternatively, he submitted, it could be the “real, undisclosed reason for wanting access over the respondents’ properties”.

Obstacles to establishing such a resort were that approval would first have to be obtained, and that large volumes of water would be needed to make artificial snow, and the water supply on Berridale was insufficient.

As for the criminal charges laid in connection with the dispute, Talbot confirmed that charges were withdrawn against him and Francois du Plessis on February 7.

It was expected that the case would be withdrawn against the remaining three accused when they appeared in court again on March 7, he said

This was because it became clear at an inspection in loco that there were in fact no roads on Beaumont farm, as alleged, he said. “In the words of the prosecutor, these are roads on paper only.”

Talbot said the accused would reserve their right to sue for damages for malicious prosecution.

The civil trial was adjourned to May 15 in the high court.

• ingrido@witness.co.za

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