From Hitler to hell for 93-year-old owner of Marikana land

'Largest land occupation' unresolved

Judge rules for owners and squatters but appeal is sought

08 October 2017 - 00:02 By PHILANI NOMBEMBE

When he was a young boy, Manfred Stock's family fled the Nazi pogroms against German Jews, eventually finding refuge on the fertile plain stretching away from Table Mountain.
About 80 years later, Stock is the fragile thread that connects one of the abominations of the 20th century with a nascent atrocity in the 21st.
The 93-year-old is one of the owners of land on the Cape Flats now known as Marikana, site of the killing of 11 people last week. Seven suspected criminals have also died, allegedly at the hands of vigilantes, over the past month.After beginning his life by fleeing intolerance, Stock is ending it caught in the same vortex on a different continent as courts, politicians and tens of thousands of desperate people go to war once more over the question of who is allowed to live where.
Stock and his 86-year-old neighbour, Iris Fischer, are at the centre of a four-year legal battle over what has been dubbed "the largest illegal land occupation in South African history".
Rights infringed
Judge Chantal Fortuin ruled in August that the City of Cape Town, the national housing minister and her provincial counterpart had infringed the landowners' constitutional property rights, as well as those of 60,000 residents of Marikana, by failing to provide them with land.
Now Stock has approached the Constitutional Court because, "save in the Fischer case, the high court failed to direct that the good-faith negotiations between the city and [landowners] be based on the assumption that the properties are vacant".
The City of Cape Town has also filed an application for leave to appeal against the judgment.
According to Stock's lawyer, Pieter Marais, selling the property as "occupied land" would affect its value. Marais said Stock had intended to develop a shopping mall and other commercial properties on the property before it was invaded."[Stock] inherited the land from his father. They fled Germany back when Nazis were in control in the 1930s," said Marais. "They came to South Africa and started to farm with horses and cattle. He has great sympathy for the people and the inhumane way people are living on that property."
The pensioner has been battling to evict the shack dwellers since 2013 when land invasions began on the property, east of Cape Town International Airport.
"The sheriff of the high court estimated that the cost of giving effect to an order to evict the occupiers would be approximately R10-million," Stock said in court papers.
"Given the rate of growth of the settlement, by the time this matter is heard on appeal, I estimate it will contain in the region of 80,000 people."
In an affidavit, Fischer's son William said their homestead, which he shares with his mother and brother, occupies less than 5% of her 2.7ha that had been invaded.
"I am extremely concerned about the safety of my family," he said. "Some of the unlawful occupiers have been hostile and have thrown bricks at my dogs. My mother, who is a fragile lady, is alone during the day whilst my brother and I are at work."In her judgment, Fortuin sympathised with the family's plight, saying: "What does one do with 60,000 people when neither the owner of the land on which they reside, nor the local authority in whose jurisdiction they live, can or want to accommodate them?"
The shack dwellers argued in court that the city council should bear the burden of housing them. They said they had been "evicted from various areas in Cape Town where they lived under desperate conditions, and, as no help was forthcoming from the city and having no other alternative, they occupied any vacant land they could find".
Nonkosi Mzotsho, secretary of the Marikana Residents' Association, said this week that residents were anxious about the appeal, which would delay the roll-out of services such as sanitation and sewerage.
"The city is unable to provide us with services because we are living on private land," she said.
Councillor Xanthea Limberg, the mayoral committee member for informal settlements, said: "In light of humanitarian concerns, the city is initiating design work for stop-gap services while legal proceedings are under way, including high-mast lighting on the outskirts of the settlement and door-to-door refuse collection."
Human Settlements Minister Lindiwe Sisulu's spokesman, Ndivhuwo Mabaya, said she would comment after the litigation was finalised. "The minister indicated that at all times, all spheres of government must prioritise the interests of the poor," he said.

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