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Relief for land occupiers unlawfully removed from their home

28 May 2021 - 06:00 By ernest mabuza
The land claims court has ordered a landowner to restore the full possession of the accommodation that a family of land tenants had enjoyed in Randfontein, before they were removed on October 18 last year.
The land claims court has ordered a landowner to restore the full possession of the accommodation that a family of land tenants had enjoyed in Randfontein, before they were removed on October 18 last year.

The land claims court came to the relief of a 75-year-old retired farmworker and his family who were forcibly removed from a farm in Randfontein they had been living on for more than 18 years in October last year.

The court ordered that the new owner of the property restore the Loaca family the full possession, occupation and use of the accommodation that served as their home until they were forced to move out on October 18 last year.

William Velile Loaca had moved to the property with his wife and five children in 2001 when he was employed by the previous landowner as a general farmworker.

The previous owner, a Mr Monthe, had given Loaca the farmhouse — which comprised two outside rooms and a four-roomed brick house — to live in.

Loaca retired due to old age in 2011 and Monthe allowed him to continue living on the property. He continued to reside in the four-roomed house and the outside rooms with his wife, five children and eight grandchildren.

In September last year, Monthe sold the farm to the new owner, Sipho Zwane.

Zwane was aware of the family and their occupation, as Monthe had informed him about them, and that they would continue residing on the premises.

When  Zwane took occupation, he told Loaca and his family verbally to vacate the home.

On October 18 last year, Zwane came to Loaca's home at 10am accompanied by three men.

Zwane informed Loaca and his wife and their family that they had until 2pm to move out.

He said if they failed to move out, he would throw their belongings out and lock the gate.

“He was very aggressive, and (Loaca) was terrified and felt threatened. They left out of fear and took a few items such as clothes, blankets and a sponge mattress,” acting judge Shanaaz Mia said in her judgment on May 21.

The family is separated. Loaca, his wife, their children and some grandchildren aged 10 and 7 respectively, sleep in a storeroom. The storeroom is used by Loaca's wife Anna to store her equipment as she is a street vendor. There are no ablution facilities or cooking facilities.

The remainder of her children and grandchildren live with her eldest son in a four-roomed house with only two bedrooms.

Though their forced removal was in October last year, Loaca and his wife only managed to bring a challenge to the court in April.

Before the court, advocate for Loaca, Fhumudzani Ratshili — instructed by Lawyers for Human Rights — said Loaca relied on the Extension of Security of Tenure Act (Esta), which requires termination of residence of an occupier before an eviction could occur.

Esta protects the rights of occupiers of land and limits the ability of the owner to evict them from the land.

Ratshili said the eviction could only be granted in terms of a court order, and the Loaca family could not be evicted summarily as had occurred.

Zwane, through his advocate Ben Bester, said Loaca did not accept the rules imposed by him, namely that he did not permit unannounced visitors on the land for security reasons.

Bester said Loaca's intolerance of him grew very strong and it caused Loaca to act out by cutting some of the fences and allowing his grandchildren to cause harm, and sometimes death, to some of the goat lambs.

In her judgment, Mia said Zwane took no action in advising Loaca in writing or taking legal action regarding the offending conduct, namely the cutting of the fence and the harm to his livestock.

Mia said eviction during the pandemic would only occur by order of the court.

“In the present case, this was not the case.”