Farm evictions

RDP house

‘I want to take my last breath in this house’ says Cape farm dweller facing eviction

By | ESTA, Evictions, Farm evictions

Reprinted from, by Liezl Human of GroundUp – 2023-10-03

Two families on a farm in Vredendal on the West Coast are being evicted from the homes they have occupied for several generations.

Several other tenants also living on Welverdiend Farm have been told to relocate to RDP houses in Vredendal North.

The residents, most of whom have lived on the farm all their life, do not want to move to a township which they say is dangerous and has frequent incidents of crime. They also don’t want to leave the farm because the graves of their parents, siblings, children and other relatives are on the property.

The current owner, Truter Lutz, purchased the farm for commercial agriculture in 2015. He wants the tenants to leave the houses so that his current employees can move in as the farm is about ten kilometres from the nearest urban area. None of the people currently living on the farm are employed by Lutz.

Welverdiend mostly farms fruit, vegetables and nuts for both the local and international market.

In an attempt to secure the families’ tenure, the Department of Agriculture, Land Reform and Rural Development had offered to buy the portion of the farm where they live. However, this offer was not accepted by the new owner. The matter is expected to be heard in the Land Claims court. No court date has been set yet.

According to court papers dated 30 May 2023, seen by GroundUp, the land was ‘free of any encumberments or land claims of any kind’ at the time of purchase.

Meanwhile, Andreas Finana whose family has lived on the farm for many generations says he remembers life there while he was growing up. Finana, now 50, points to a tree nearby where he had carved out his name as a young child.

According to Lutz’s affidavit, Finana was employed at Welverdiend from August 2020 until January 2022, when he was dismissed.

Finana lives with his sister and one of his children. ‘This farm has passed through three hands since my birth,’ he says. ‘I want to take my last breath in this house and be buried up here.’

Finana says they are worried what life would be like if they have to leave the peace that comes with living on a farm. ‘Here I can leave all my doors and windows open. I can leave my laundry outside. I can walk over to that house anytime of the day or night … I feel safe here.’

Elderly couple Anna and Dawid Saal were among the several tenants who received a letter that they needed to relocate to an RDP house. All four of their children were born on the farm. Anna was born on the farm in 1953 and her parents had worked on the farm. Dawid moved to the farm when they got married in the 1970s. Their son was also buried near their home.

Dawid says they struggled to understand what the ‘big words’ in the letter actually meant. Dawid said their son was buried in the graveyard on the farm and he also wants to be buried there.

Thys Beukes, who was a seasonal worker for one of previous farm owners, says he worries about his elderly mother’s health and quality of life should they be successfully evicted. ‘She is too old to move to the place they want us to relocate to. There are murders, rapes, and thievery,’ he says.

Coleen Arnolds, development facilitator at the Surplus People Project — a local organisation helping the farm dwellers — told GroundUp that there was ‘lots of violence’ in Vredendal North and that it would be a major change for this group to be forced to move there.

She said the RDP houses in Vredendal were cramped and didn’t have much space for the farm dwellers’ to sustain themselves by ‘planting vegetables’ like they do on the farm.

We sent several questions to the Department of Agriculture, Land Reform and Rural Development. Officials told GroundUp that they could not comment before the matter is adjudicated in court.

When we contacted the farm owner, Mr Lutz, his legal representative, Steph Grobler responded to GroundUp, which we have published below in full:

“Our client does not intend to answer each and every one of your queries and the same should not be construed as an admission or denial of the same. Our client also reserves the right to respond at a later point in time should our client deem the same to be necessary.

Our client is a commercial farmer and the land in question is zoned for agriculture purposes. The farm was purchased free of any land claims and/or other encumberments. Our client confirms that there are two (2) pending Extension of Security of Tenure Act (ESTA) eviction matters. The respondents are represented by Legal Aid South Africa and have this week filed a notice of appearance confirming the intention to oppose the matters. Our client will continue to follow the lawful process and will continue to engage with all the interested parties in an attempt to find an amicable solution.

It is specifically confirmed that there are no aged persons amongst the respondents or occupiers who enjoy protected status under section 8(4) of the Act. There are certain occupiers who enjoy protected status who have received RDP houses in the local housing project. In terms of the applicable municipal legislation and rules pertaining to subsidies, the recipients/beneficiaries are required to accept the allocation and are to reside in the house in question themselves. It is common cause that a real right in property, which so few of our citizens have the privilege to enjoy, is a stronger right than any personal right that is acquired through the operation of the ESTA Act.

Our client is of the view that the aforementioned persons should relocate peacefully to their allocated houses and take occupation thereof. Our client has attempted to meet with the occupiers to determine how they can be of assistance to relocate them peacefully to their RDP houses. These attempts have to date hereof been futile and met with hostility.

In these instances, the state has fulfilled its section 26 duty, and the beneficiary should accept the allocation and take occupation forthwith. To expect a private landowner to continue to house occupiers when they have alternative accommodation available is prejudicial to the landowner and to the commercial viability of the farm. The intention of ESTA, as it is clear from the preamble, is to provide security of tenure to vulnerable farm workers who do not enjoy access to alternative accommodation. It could never have been the intention of the legislature that persons who have received state grants (again a reference to the law in this regard) should be able to remain on the farm and enjoy possession and occupation of both premises. ESTA speaks to the permanence of residence, as does the applicable rules pertaining to individual housing subsidies/RDP houses.

Our client will continue to follow a lawful process in this regard and will engage with the interested parties including the local municipality in an attempt to find an amicable solution. In the event the parties are unable to find an amicable solution, our client will follow the applicable legal process.”

Facing eviction?

This case is before the courts. It is not for us to comment on whether or not these evictions are lawful. However, if you think you are being subjected to illegal eviction practices, or if you are evicting a tenant lawfully and the eviction is being opposed, our specialist eviction lawyers can help. Simon Dippenaar & Associates, Inc. helps landlords and tenants maintain healthy working relationships but, when necessary, we can assist with eviction, ensuring it is effected legally and ethically and all parties’ rights are respected. Contact one of our eviction attorneys on 086 099 5146 or for assistance with eviction matters.


Farm eviction battle in Concourt

By | Eviction news, Farm evictions, Homeless

Reprinted from the Star, by Bongani Nkosi – 2021-09-22

Johannesburg – The Constitutional Court has been asked to come to the rescue of a man who has allegedly been evicted along with his family by farmers he worked for over the last 21 years.

Alias Mtolo, his wife, Maheneng Mtolo, and their eight children found themselves homeless after allegedly being evicted from the farm in Vanderbijlpark, Gauteng, without a notice.

The Mtolos launched urgent court applications against Theunis Christoffel Lombard and his wife Maria Helentje Lombard following their alleged eviction.

The legal battle between the Mtolos and the Lombards reached the apex court yesterday.

Representing the Mtolos, Tembeka Ngcukaitobi SC told the justices the matter was brought before them following an unfavourable judgment by a South Gauteng High Court judge.

In this contested judgment, Judge Fiona Dippenaar struck the Mtolos’ application from the roll. They had approached her to seek an order compelling the Lombards to comply with an earlier order.

In that order, Judge Michael Antonie directed the Lombards to return the farm house to the possession of the Mtolos and make it fit for human occupation.

Central in the matter were also allegations that the Lombards had not fixed the house that was damaged during the “eviction” of the Mtolos.

Ngcukaitobi called on the Constitutional Court to interfere with Judge Dippenaar’s ruling.

“Firstly we say that Judge Dippenaar did not consider the implications of homelessness on the part of the Mtolo family, which itself would be an infringement of Section 26 of the Constitution,” he said.

Secondly, Ngcukaitobi said, Judge Dippenaar failed to consider whether the Lombards had complied with Judge Antonie’s order that they should fix the house.

“The facts show that the structure or the house of the Mtolos is a dangerous structure and it is not fit for human occupation,” Ngcukaitobi said.

“To sum up (this matter), we’re dealing with a case of homelessness because of a structure that constitutes a death trap.”

He referred to a report by the Emfuleni local municipality that described the four room house as hazardous.

It said the house’s corrugated iron sheets were not properly installed and risked being blown away by wind.

Ngcukaitobi said a just and equitable ruling in this matter would be one that ordered the Lombards to fix the house and allow the Mtolos back in.

“(It) is not punishment for the eviction that we’re asking for,” he said.

“But what we’re asking for is what would be just and equitable in the case of a farmworker who has worked for the same family for 21 years and then got kicked out without notice.”

Advocate Nadia Smit, representing the Lombards, denied that the Mtolos were evicted, or that they did not have alternative accommodation after vacating the farm house.

“They misrepresented themselves and they misled the court, not only this court but also the high court, by saying they are homeless,” she told the apex court.

“It’s evident from pictures attached to our answering affidavit in this court and before Judge Dippenaar and before Judge Antonie that in fact they had alternative accommodation. They weren’t homeless.”

Smit also denied that Judge Antonie’s judgment was not complied with. She said the house was fixed but the Mtolos had not returned. “We never asked them to vacate.”

Judgment was reserved.

For further information

Simon Dippenaar & Associates, Inc. is a Cape Town law firm of specialist eviction lawyers, now operating in Johannesburg and Durban, helping both landlords and tenants with the eviction process. Contact one of our eviction attorneys on 086 099 5146 or if you need advice on the eviction process or if you are facing unlawful eviction.

Further reading:

Black emerging farmers evicted from state-owned farms in North West

By | Eviction news, Eviction notice, Eviction orders, Evictions, Farm evictions
A judge has given black emerging farmers in some parts of North West two weeks to remove their livestock from the farms and that they should be evicted if they failed to leave. File Picture: Sandile Ndlovu
A judge has given black emerging farmers in some parts of North West two weeks to remove their livestock from the farms and that they should be evicted if they failed to leave. File Picture: Sandile Ndlovu

Johannesburg – A judge has ordered the forceful removal of a group of emerging black farmers who occupied several state-owned farms in parts of North West.

The Ministry of Agriculture, Land Reform and Rural Development bought the farms from white farmers in 2019 for redistribution purposes.

A number of farmers occupied them within months after the government paid out millions of rand to the previous owners. These were largely livestock farmers.

The ministry led by Thoko Didiza took a group of 21 farmers to the North West High Court in a bid to evict them from the farms intended for redistribution to successful black applicants.

Judge Samkelo Gura found that the farmers had occupied the farms without permission.

The farmers testified that they occupied the farms with permission from the previous farm owners and officials of the department.

Judge Gura found otherwise: “Almost all previous owners of these farms have filed confirmatory affidavits to the (ministry’s) replying affidavit. They deny that they ever gave any of the respondents permission to occupy or to graze their livestock on the land,” he wrote in the judgment.

“Therefore, the respondents were dishonest to (the) court…”

Judge Gura heard from the farmers that they decided to move their livestock on to the farms after many unfulfilled promises by officials over many years.

The judge described the group as emerging farmers from villages spread throughout North West.

Parts of the judgment read as though Judge Gura was sympathetic to the group’s difficulties in getting the government to allocate them farms.

“The experience of the opposing respondents tell of gross irregularities in the manner the applicant has gone about allocating land,” he said.

“A significant number of the farms in and surrounding the villages where the opposing respondents reside are still operated by white farmers.

“Many of the opposing respondents have made numerous unsuccessful applications for agricultural land allocation. They do not know the reasons for their applications not being successful.”

However, it boiled down to whether the farmers occupied the farms legally and at no disadvantage to those whose applications were approved. Judge Gura said the government intended to lease the farms to black farmers after a rigorous selection process.

“The respondents admit that none of them holds any lease agreement with the government over these farms,” he said.

“They are therefore grazing their livestock and utilising the land for their benefit free of charge. They refuse to vacate the properties.”

He gave the farmers two weeks to remove their livestock from the farms. They should be evicted if they failed to leave.

Reprinted from IOL

Some links added by SD Law

For further information

Simon Dippenaar & Associates, Inc. is a Cape Town law firm of specialist eviction lawyers, now operating in Johannesburg and Durban, helping both landlords and tenants with the eviction process. Contact one of our eviction attorneys on 086 099 5146 or if you need advice on the eviction process or if you are facing unlawful eviction.

Further Reading: