Had police arrested trespassers on privately owned properties in Olievenhoutbosch, the area would not be plagued by the continuous illegal land invasions.
This is according to lawyers arguing before the High Court in Pretoria yesterday, as they requested the court to order police to remove land invaders from the property.
Respondents in the matter include the minister of police, the provincial police commissioner, the Olievenhoutbosch police station commander, the City of Tshwane and the alleged illegal occupiers.
Attorney Zehir Omar, representing the land owners, said trespassers became illegal occupants of land who could not be evicted once they erected shacks, according to the Prevention of Illegal Eviction from the Unlawful Occupation of Land Act.
“The crime of trespassing is transformed to a civil wrong the moment a shack is erected on the property. The moment a trespasser becomes an unlawful occupier, the police lose their jurisdiction and the property owner is left with the only remedy of having to obtain an order of eviction from a civil court,” he said.
Omar said the property owners, represented by Sikander Mohammed, witnessed about 1 000 people invading land earmarked for development. Despite countless calls for the removal of the invaders in recent weeks, shacks and structures were being erected.
Omar argued that police were obliged by the constitution to protect citizens and should act with urgency should they be alerted of any trespassing.
“Approximately 1 000 people entered the land without permission. They are trespassers. It takes them about 15 minutes to erect a shack. But then they are protected by the law,” he said.
The police’s advocate, Lerato Maite, countered, saying it was difficult to make such arrests as invasion and erection of structures and shacks happened at night, while the incidents were only reported in the morning.