Illegal land grabbers ignore court order

In spite of the legal court order successfully obtained by the legal teams of the state and the municipality last Friday (15 January) it did not stop people to erect more shacks.


Illegal land grabbers ignore court order

Venessa van der Westhuizen

In spite of the legal court order successfully obtained by the legal teams of the state and the municipality last Friday (15 January) it did not stop people to erect more shacks.

In spite of the legal court order successfully obtained by the state and the municipality last Friday (15 January) people continued to erect more shacks at the Mooibank area this past week. Adv. Nic Laubscher (JB Marks Municipality) and adv. Oupa Mothibi (Department of Agriculture, Land Reform and Rural Development represented the two parties on 15 January in Mmabatho.

The court order stipulates that people could not enter or claim land that belonged to the municipality and the Department of Agriculture, Land Reform and Rural Development, by Monday (18 January) people were still arriving with building materials to construct shacks.

The court documents in the Herald’s possession stipulated that the court order was made effective immediately on Friday, 15 January. The court order stipulates that the area cannot be cleared  and that poles and structures cannot be erected on the property. Public officials or members of the SAPS that want to prevent people from entering the aforementioned land cannot be intimidated or threatened. Public media or social media platforms can also not be used to make arrangements or to incite entry to the pertaining Mooibank area.

The court documents also indicate that the legal teams have already applied for an eviction order that will be heard in court on Monday, 11 February at 10:00. If the order is allowed then illegal occupants will have 24-hours to leave the land before they will be removed. The sheriff of the court is handling the eviction as well as the demolition and removal of any structures. The sheriff of the court can also call on the help and support of other members of the public, including the police for this eviction.

On Thursday, 14 January, the police met with the legal teams of the municipality and the Department of Agriculture, Land Reform and Rural Development as well as representatives of various political parties to discuss the matter. Together they agreed that JB Marks Municipality security officials would prohibit new trespassers from erecting new structures. The police will also stabilise the situation if conflict should arise.

A Facebook post from Jacqueline van der Merwe confirmed the Herald’s observation that trespassers were still erecting structures even though the court order had stipulated otherwise. She stated on Facebook on Saturday (16 January): “Now just passing by … (entrants) are still moving in. They now use the tar road behind Abraham Kriel. Two spazas are making good money. One guy is selling building materials directly along the road. Entrepreneur working with a petrol bush cutter.”

Hans-Jurie Moolman, the DA caucus leader of the JB Marks Municipality, approached the municipal manager on Monday to enquire about the trespassers are not being stopped from entering the land. According to him, the municipal manager replied that security officials from the municipality are already preventing illegal occupants from entering the municipal land. “Unfortunately I cannot provide security that belongs to state land. The department of public works must do this,” stated Lebu Ralekgetho.

The acting head of agriculture, land reform and rural development of the Dr. Kenneth Kaunda region, Dipepeneneng Serage, stated that they are in the process of acquiring more private security services to protect the land in the Mooibank area.

Meanwhile, it seems that the communication departments of the JB Marks Municipality and the office of the mayor are divided on the issue. In a media statement issued by JB Marks on Saturday (16 January) media spokesperson William Maphosa reaffirmed that the municipality strongly condemned the invasion of state land. According to him, the office of the speaker plans to investigate the alleged involvement of officials and certain councilors, as well as the use of municipal vehicles during the incident. “Councilors have a code of conduct to uphold and as leaders of the community and representatives of the municipality, they are always expected to set an example,” said Maphosa.

However, in a media statement issued by the mayor’s office on 18 January, it appears that there is a hint that the illegal occupiers may not be removed because of Covid-19 regulations. Mandla Tawana, the spokesperson for the mayor, writes: “The executive mayor as chairperson of the local Command Council respects all the decisions of the National Command Council and its regulations. We will at an appropriate time engage all the communities that have occupied our land for purposes of human settlement. The matter should be handled delicately by councilors and all the government officials as it is a sensitive matter affecting our people.”

Tawana criticized opposition parties who, according to him, have not condemned other land grabs at Matlwang, Promosa, and Mohadin, arguing that underlying racial and class prejudice is at issue here. “…there seem to be some pockets of society on either class or racial underpins, which seems to believe that the movement of black people into areas which were previously designated for whites will actually deviate the property of such communities,(sic)” Tawana said.

Responding to the media release of Tawana, Hans-Jurie Moolman also released a statement by the DA objecting to the mayor’s office that used a municipal letterhead and communication resources to launch political attacks against opposition parties. “Municipal officials are bound by a Code of Conduct which requires them to be impartial on political issues. The use of municipal communication resources goes against this code of conduct.”

Moolman further stated that the office of the mayor’s released statements are misleading and not factual: “… for years the DA has spoken out against illegal land invasions which left occupants without basic services. Residents in areas such as Marikana next to Promosa and several other areas, known as Baipei, have spent at least the past 10 years without basic services such as water, sanitation and waste removal. There are also pending reports from the South African Human Rights Commission against the municipality for allowing residents to live in appalling conditions which violate their human dignity”, Moolman said.  He also added that all municipal officials who are paid by the state through public funds must serve the whole community of JB Marks and refrain from abusing their positions as a platform for the promotion of the ideology of certain political parties.

Meanwhile, the Herald has learned from a reliable source that some of the occupants have left the property again because they can no longer stand the appalling conditions. They complain that they must buy water, that the area is too muddy and that their corrugated iron sheets are stolen overnight.

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