Bisley landowners in limbo

2019-08-21 16:06
Lindokuhle Mthembu marks where he wants to build his house on what is thought to be the Goodall property.

Lindokuhle Mthembu marks where he wants to build his house on what is thought to be the Goodall property. (Moeketsi Mamane)

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Bisley landowners are considering taking legal action against police after they let hundreds of illegal invaders flood their property yesterday despite a high court order preventing the land grab.

Police however have said allegations that police left the site yesterday “are not true”, and that the landowners had a court order that was executed and finalised at court.

The land grab spans two private properties and municipal land and extends along Richmond Road and the railway tracks, down into the valley behind the Bisley Nature Reserve near Intaba Ridge Secure Eco Estate, an area of well over 400 hectares.

Hundreds of people gathered on what is believed to be municipal land near Richmond Road yesterday morning with pangas and building tools, ready to start setting up structures, while others went about marking the plots of land they wanted to build on.

Several structures, including two brick houses, were already on the property when police and Msunduzi’s municipal rapid response unit arrived.

The municipality, police and people who had invaded the land were in a deep discussion, huddled around a bulldozer, municipal and police vehicles when The Witness arrived at the land yesterday. Some of the structures had already been taken down, but the brick houses stayed where they were and the municipality and police left the site, leaving people to run onto land belonging to Jabulani Mjwara and the Goodall Family Trust.

A member of the trust, Greg Goodall, said he was now considering taking legal action against the police as there was a high court order in place that instructs that anyone invading the Goodall property or property nearby should be arrested.

Attorney Farheim Ebrahim said often “uniformed police do not know how to implement” court orders and orders of contempt of court.

“More often than not, the lawyer ends up having to go to the station commander of the police station and hand him the court order and tell them arrests need to be made,” he said.

Goodall said he had gone to police numerous times with the court order, title deeds and outlines of the various properties but nothing had been done.

He said people were free to flock to his and Mjwara’s properties after police and the municipality left the area yesterday morning.

“It was an absolute free-for-all. There was complete lawlessness. I do not know why police and the rapid response unit did not arrest people.

“If the people are removed from our land tomorrow and kept from invading it, then we might let it slide but we have a court order instructing police to arrest people on our land illegally.

“We have spent so much money going to court, our lives have been threatened and the police should uphold our property rights.”

He said people built a structure on his property yesterday afternoon, after police left. Police had said nothing was built on Goodall’s land yesterday.

 

 

‘We will continue to build here’, say disgruntled community members

Provincial police spokesperson Colonel Thembeka Mbele said a case of trespassing was opened at Thornville in 2017 and 91 people were arrested. “The court refused to enrol the docket.”

Mbele added that Mjwara was given a case number by the Thornville station commander and the delays were explained. “We are appealing to land owners to ensure they safe guard their property to prevent people from erecting illegal structures.

“If the land owner has opened a case of trespassing, the police will arrest all those who are found to be committing such offence and the law states that the owner of the land must also be present when an arrest is being made.

“If there is an eviction court order in terms of the Prevention of Illegal Eviction and Unlawful Occupation Act, the police officers will escort those who will execute the court order to monitor.

“Arrests are being made for all the suspects who failed to adhere with the court order,” she said.

Community member Kwanele Zondi said the municipality had demolished a few structures yesterday but there were no permits to destroy them.

“The municipality is confused because they were still trying to demarcate their land this [yesterday] morning. They [Msunduzi] came fighting but we have asked for a meeting with the city next week and they said they would meet with us.

“Everyone on this land is unemployed and is living on grants. They just want shelter on land that has been empty for a long time,” he said.

Another community member, Zithulele Baware’s structure was destroyed yesterday morning. “How can the municipality send people here to destroy our houses when they don’t even have a mayor?

“We will continue to build here until the municipality shows us proof that it is their land,” he said.

People had started clearing and marking out land behind the Bisley Nature Reserve on over the weekend and on Monday.

When The Witness visited the area on Monday masses of trees had been marked with paint in different colours and initials chopped into trees and poles marked various plots of land.

A number of people in the valley were erecting poles in the area. A couple in a bakkie had hammers and wooden poles.

Giraffe from the reserve were spotted munching on some of the trees that had been marked for the land grab.

Msunduzi municipal spokesperson Thobeka Mafumbatha said the structures were not left as “it’s illegal, that is why the land invasion team is removing them”.

She said they would be meeting the community next week about land issues as “we are all aware that land issues are on the government agenda and therefore our communities need to be engaged on such issues”.

She added that the municipality was in the process of trying to get a court order.

 

 

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