Call for Ramaphosa to intervene in farmworker evictions

President Cyril Ramaphosa should halt farmworker evictions to allow for proper input from the departments of social development and education, according to the Rural and Farmworkers Development Organisation.

"We urge and make a plea to our government and the judiciary to stand up for the poor and helpless farm dwellers who sometimes don't have the money nor the capacity to litigate in court," said Billy Claasen, director of the organisation.

"We feel left behind in some stages," he said. This comes after a family of 10 was evicted in Paarl, near a wine cellar, where they lived. 

"Evictions like this sometimes have a humanitarian crisis and therefore we ask that the following departments become part of the applications process when farmers apply for evictions." 

His call comes as the May family hunkers down in a makeshift shelter on the verge of the R44 opposite Windmeul Cellar's property that they used to live on. There have also been protests related to the eviction and on Saturday the company tweeted that it had cancelled its market day.

Claasen said the family had been exposed to the cold and to danger, and the alternative offered was "not fit for human living standards". 

He said the family had lived on the farm for 38 years before being removed by the Sherrif of the Court and a private security company with their belongings.

"We still want to ask the honorable president to declare a moratorium on evictions," he said. 

"We furthermore ask farmers to consider other options and mechanisms to deal with evictions. We must all come together and grow South Africa and leave no one behind. We must stop fighting with each other."

The organisation is also seeking donations to tide the family over in the meantime. 

Dismissal

In a statement issued on March 27, the day after the eviction, Windmeul said 10 years ago one member of the family was dismissed for selling liquor illegally at the premises and a relationship of trust had broken down irretrievably. 

The family refused to move and in the interim sales of liquor and drugs were allegedly emanating from the home of the dismissed employee.

There was also alleged destruction of property. The company said it had followed all legal procedures with the legal bundle totalling 450 pages including applications to the Land Claims Court in Randburg alongside numerous attempts at resolving the issue such as extending deadlines. 

The residents did not oppose any of the action, but in April 2018 engaged the services of a lawyer to oppose their removal.

"Again, by agreement between the parties, with the occupiers still duly legally represented, an order was granted by the Land Claims Court on 10 August 2018, wherein the occupiers agreed to vacate the premises on or before 15 January 2019. 

"They further agreed that in the event that they did not vacate the property as they had undertaken to do, they could be removed from the premises by the Sheriff of the court."

Windmeul said it extended the January deadline by two months.

The company said that Drakenstein Municipality made arrangements for the family to be moved to New Orleans Park, but when the truck arrived to fetch them and their belongings, they refused to move.

They were removed with a warrant issued by the Land Claims Court. Comment was not immediately available from the family spokesperson.

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