‘We are prepared to die’

2019-03-01 15:02

WATCH: Ramaphosa hands over 4 586 hectares to a KZN community

2018-10-16 12:38

President Cyril Ramaphosa handed over more than 4000 hectares of land to the KwaMkhwanazi community in Empangeni, northern KwaZulu-Natal on Sunday.WATCH

Tensions simmered near Thornville on Thursday when land owners tried to demolish “illegally” constructed upmarket houses.

Pranil Singh, whose family owns the 13 8884 hectares of land known as Leliesfontein, said that the property was being illegally occupied.

Between 80 and 90 houses have been constructed on the land.

Armed with a court order, he and his demolition crew were in the process of destroying the houses when they were met with resistance. However, they did tear down a boundary wall.

Singh said that between 200 to 300 people converged at the site and refused to let the demolitions go ahead.

“I was assaulted but when I wanted to open a case, police present said they did not see the assault,” he said.

The angry illegal occupiers burnt tyres on the R56 road and blocked it.

According to the protesters, those who had built houses had bought sites from previous workers on the farm. “When the farm stopped operating many years ago the owner of the farm left and the workers remained at the property.

“However, a few years later the farm workers decided to sell the pieces of land on which they had built their living structures,” said Thandi Mazibuko, who claims to have bought her land for R85 000.

Between 200 and 300 people arrived on a farm in Thornville on Thursday to stop houses that have been built illegally from being demolished.  

Mazibuko, who built a four-bedroom house on the piece of land she had purchased, said they were shocked when they were served with eviction notices towards the end of last year.

“The owner of the farm is now claiming that we have invaded his property. The fact is we were sold the pieces of land by the former workers — whom he has no right to evict,” she said.

The mother of four used her life savings to build a four-bedroom house for her children.

“It cost me R900 000 to build the house and I know lots of people that have built houses more expensive than that.

“The bottom line is we are not going anywhere — we are prepared to die here as we have nowhere else to go. The farm owner was aware of the massive houses that were being built on the property but chose to act only after the houses have been completed — that’s unacceptable,” she said.

Litigation over the illegal occupiers dates back to 2016.

In March 2017, the Pietermaritzburg high court ordered that the unlawful occupiers vacate the property and remove all structures. Further construction had also been barred. Despite this, the occupiers continued, prompting further action.

Then in December 2018, the court ordered that if the occupiers failed to vacate the property, the sheriff and police were authorised and directed to take all reasonable steps to ensure the removal of the occupiers and the demolition and removal of all the structures erected unlawfully.

Police did not respond to a query about what happened in Thornville.

Read more on:    pietermaritzburg  |  land claims

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