Stellenbosch land occupiers will resist 'land invasion' to remove them

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Picketers singing and holding posters outside the Western Cape High Court. (Jenni Evans, News24)
Picketers singing and holding posters outside the Western Cape High Court. (Jenni Evans, News24)

A group of people facing eviction from shacks they built on land owned by the trustees of Louiesenhof Wines in Stellenbosch have decided to fight back in court and have hired a lawyer.

"They came twice with an eviction order already and they sent the sheriff and the police to invade us, but we fought," said Midas Wanana, a leader of the group of people living on a portion of the land called Watergang.

"When they invade us, we will fight by all means," Wanana said on the sidelines of a street protest outside the Western Cape High Court in Cape Town.

They were there to support their lawyer Ayanda Gladile, who was appearing on their behalf for the first time on Tuesday.

Wanana said they had done a collection to be able to appoint Gladile to secure their right to stay on "Azania", the name they have given the land which formed part of a larger farm called Koopmanskloof.

Speaking while about 100 people sang nearby, Wanana said that when they moved from backyard shacks in Kayamandi to the vacant plot called Watergang, they thought it had belonged to the Stellenbosch municipality.

When they found out that it was privately owned, they told the municipality that would be staying there, and waited for a reply. 

'We are not going to move back'

He said that, when the landowner tried to remove them, they resisted.

"We told him, 'we are not here to fight with you, but unfortunately we are occupying the land already'."

Wanana said they could not return to Kayamandi, as they had lost their rented spaces. They now believe that is up to the municipality and the landowner to sort everything out for them to stay. He said any attempt to move them or their shacks, would be considered an invasion of their land.

"We are not going to move back."

READ: Stellenbosch land owner gets eviction order after 'land invasion'

The interdict application was brought by Wynand Stephanus Smit, Pieter Steenkamp, Manie Malan and Esme Smit in their capacities as trustees of the WS Smit Watergang Trust.

It was against "any and all unknown persons attempting to occupy farm 183, portion 5, Stellenbosch, (also known as Watergang); the sheriff of the district of Stellenbosch and the Station Commander of the SA Police Services, Stellenbosch".

The municipality also had legal counsel available at the brief court session on Tuesday.

The matter was postponed to August 29 to give Gladile time to collect information on how many people are living on the land, and to verify other details, such as how many shacks there are, and the personal circumstances of the occupants. This includes how many disabled people are living there.

Agreement in place

Advocate Lawrie Wilkin, for the landowners, asked Judge Mark Sher for the matter to be postponed to give Gladile time to file his answering affidavit.

Sher granted the postponed to August 29.

Speaking outside the court, Gladile said there was an agreement in place between the leadership of "Azania" and the municipality that no more shacks would be erected until the case is finalised.

The municipality is also servicing the shacks already erected with temporary toilets.

READ: Stellenbosch wine farm after occupation

The application comes after a joint Constitutional Review Committee to hold public hearings into whether Section 25 of the Constitution – which deals with private property ownership rights – should be amended.

This is part of a proposal by the Economic Freedom Fighters that the section be amended to make it possible for the government to expropriate land in the public interest without compensation.

President Cyril Ramaphosa has said that this would be one of the ways to transform South Africa and effect land reform. 

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