2019-12-04 16:43

Land grabbers have intensified their campaign to seize two large portions of the Foxhill Lamontvalle Farm in Bisley.

When The Witness visited the two properties on Tuesday, one of which is privately-owned and the other owned by the Msunduzi Municipality, graders brought in by the invaders were busy at work, clearing land in preparation for the erection of housing structures.

The invaders, who are led by a committee, had also brought in land surveyors who had set up their equipment on the site.

Nkokhelo Goge, the land invaders’ committee chairperson, said more than 300 people have already registered to be allocated pieces of land, which is located behind the Bisley Nature Reserve.

“We didn’t just wake up one day and decide to come and invade, we are acting on the instructions of homeless people in France, Imbali and other surrounding areas who have been sleeping on the streets despite the fact that there is land a stone’s throw away that has not be utilised for several years,” he said.

A few months ago, the invaders were briefly halted in their land-grab spree after the municipality and private owner Jabulani Mjwara obtained a temporary interdict against them.

Goge said the court had struck the matter off the roll after the municipality had failed to furnish further details required for the interdict to be made permanent. According to Goge, the municipality’s failure to take further legal steps against the invaders had sent out the signal that the local government accepted that the land should be used for housing.

“The municipality wanted to turn the land into a cemetery but our view is that it is not suitable for that purpose. If the matter goes back to court, we will send our lawyers to ensure that no interdict is granted against us,” he said.

However, Msunduzi Municipality spokesperson Thobeka Mafumbatha rebutted Goge’s claim that there was no interdict against the invaders.

“As the municipality, we did obtain a court order against the invaders and we have all the intentions to evict them.

“However, our challenge is that our security officers currently don’t have firearms due to certain legal issues that we are attending to. We are currently making arrangements with the police to ensure that the illegal occupiers are evicted,” she said.

An invader clears bushes in a portion earmarked for development of a house. 

Goge and his fellow invaders have already started to build brick structures on the two properties, which are adjacent to the affluent Intaba Ridge Private Game Estate property development, where a three-bedroom house is priced at more R5 million.

The land grabs are the latest in a string of invasions that have hit farmers in the Bisley and Thornville areas. Farms that have been taken over by invaders include Leliesfontein Farm in Thornville where in March more than 300 occupiers threatened the owner with violence when he attempted to enforce a court eviction order he had obtained against them. The invaders, some of whom have since built houses worth close to a R1 million on Leliesfontein, continue to occupy the property.

According to farm owners who have fallen victim to the invasions, the invaders are led by a few ring leaders who once the property falls under their control, slice it into smaller pieces which they then sell to members of the public for anything up to R200 000 a portion.

The Witness has since established that Goge and members of his committee have been selling portions of land on the two properties to members of the public. However, Goge denied this, saying members of the public wanting to build houses on the site had been asked to donate R200 each.

“The money is not for the committee members but goes towards paying for things such as the clearing of land and legal costs as we have to fight eviction orders,” he said.

“It is absolutely not true that we are selling plots. What made us participate in the invasion is a lack of housing — all what we want is a shelter over our heads and not money.”

The invasions are taking place amid a raging debate on land expropriation in the country.

The debate gathered momentum following a resolution by the ANC’s 2017 national conference to expropriate land without compensation.

An ad hoc parliamentary committee has since been set up to find ways to amend section 25 of the Constitution to allow for land expropriation without compensation.

While the EFF is in support of invasions such as those taking place at the Fox Hill Lamontvalle Farm and surrounding areas, the ANC has distanced itself from the invasions, saying the party is opposed to land grabs.

Read more on:    pietermaritzburg

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