'They just don't want black people living next to the sea': Hermanus land case continues

2019-06-18 17:30
Schulphoek in Hermanus. (Jenni Evans, News24)

Schulphoek in Hermanus. (Jenni Evans, News24)

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The Overstrand Municipality will no longer be buying the multimillion-rand sea-facing plot called Schulphoek in Hermanus for a group of people who allegedly illegally occupied it last year, the Western Cape High Court heard on Tuesday. 

Instead, the current owners want the people, who settled on the site that is valued at R36m, to be evicted so that they can "sterilise it" and finalise its sale for the development of about 200 residential units.

"There were some commitments regarding the possible purchase of the land by the municipality, but this has fallen away," said advocate Lawrie Wilken who is representing the applicants, Cape Theme Parks and Cavcor CCl. 

Wilken was speaking during an eviction application by the two entities who are major players in the property industry.

READ: A year after Hermanus unrest, land occupation unresolved

Last year, the issue of what was going to happen to the land resulted in street protests erupting in Zwelihle, a suburb close to Schulphoek.

Eviction attempts by the private eviction company, the Red Ants, to remove people, who were pegging out plots and building shacks on the site as well as other vacant land, boiled over into clashes with the police.

This occurred ahead of the National Assembly's adoption of a resolution to consider amending the Constitution to allow for expropriation without compensation.

On Tuesday, Wilken said in spite of an interdict preventing further occupation, people were continually moving onto the land. 

It was sold to Cape Metropolitan Investments for the construction of 200 units, but the transfer has stalled. 

"The sale has taken place but there is no transfer," Wilken explained.

The suspensive conditions for the sale, understood to have been worth around R30m in 2017, are that the new owner takes "vacant occupation". The seller is obliged to provide that.

In the meantime, the owners cannot complete the sale while people are living there."More people are occupying, under the misguided notion that they are entitled to do so," said Wilken. "They will be evicted and become homeless." 

Last year, the municipality considered buying the property after numerous marches to its offices under the banner of "Zwelihle Renewal". Since then, its leader, Gcobani Ndzongana, co-founded the Land Party that he now leads.

"They just don't want black people living next to the sea," said Ndzongana.

The lawyer for the occupants, Thulasizwe Twalo, came under fire from Judge Elize Steyn for not being ready to oppose the eviction on Tuesday, and asking for more time. 

Judge Steyn said she had no papers from Twalo to indicate that the matter was being opposed by the current occupants and Wilken pointed out that in theory that matter was unopposed as it stood.

Judge Steyn insisted that it be dealt with soon, as it was causing "aggression and hostility" and affecting the whole of Hermanus. There were also ecological considerations regarding the milkwood forest on the property.

"It is winter," said Judge Steyn. "They will basically have to be evicted from the property in the middle of a cold winter, and that is not going to happen on my watch." 

Twalo explained that gathering information on the 2 001 occupants represented by him was not easy, but the defense had worked for three weekends interviewing everybody he represents.

They battled with access and had to fit in with everybody's work schedules and other commitments to collect personal details including pay slips, where relevant, to provide proof of income.

"People will rather run for their jobs," he said, explaining the difficulties in pinning everybody down for fact-gathering to oppose the eviction.

He noted that not everybody living on Schulphoek was part of the application to oppose eviction.

Judge Steyn stood the matter down and instructed all the lawyers in the matter to urgently approach Western Cape Judge President John Hlophe to sort out what type of postponement, if any, should be granted, to give the occupiers' lawyer a chance to finalise his papers and file them.

At first, one of the lawyers pointed out that it might be difficult to get a meeting with Judge President Hlophe at such short notice. 

"Go and look for him," ordered Judge Steyn.

The matter was later postponed to September 5.

The occupants were given a last chance with strict timelines and an agreement that if they were not ready to oppose by then, the eviction would go ahead. They would have six weeks to vacate the property from then.  

Read more on:    western cape  |  cape town  |  illegal occupation  |  land
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