A group of people evicted from a Stellenbosch wine farm owner’s land have started rebuilding their shacks as the owner prepares for a second court application to have them removed.

“Our municipality doesn’t care about us. We got everyone to stand up for our land,” said Zola Ndalazi, a community leader.

Nandiswa Masimini said: “They promised to speak to us, but no one followed up. So we decided to bring our shacks and build here.”

Masimini previously rented a shack in a backyard in the wine belt.

“We don’t have money to pay rent. Even our [original landlords] don’t want us back because we have moved everything out already. We don’t know where we’re supposed to go.”

She said they did not want to live in the town’s planned temporary relocation area because, as backyarders, they consider themselves as already living in temporary housing.

Building material marked 

“In South Africa, we can’t move from one shack to another shack. We must move from the shack to the houses.”

Men, women and children were seen rebuilding their shacks in the rain and mud on Tuesday. Some of their building material, estimated to cost around R3 000 per shack, had been marked red by the eviction company to indicate that those were shacks that had previously been removed.

Last week people started building shacks on Watergang, a piece of land that belongs to a family trust that includes the Louiesenhof wine estate.

Lawyers for the trust were instructed to apply for an eviction order and this was granted in the Western Cape High Court on Saturday.

In terms of the court order granted to the owners, only unoccupied shacks could be removed, and no more shacks could be built.

The Red Ants eviction company moved in and started dismantling unoccupied shacks.

Stellenbosch Municipality spokesperson Stuart Grobbelaar said that stakeholder meetings had taken place in May and June. On July 31, a further meeting was held in the city hall to discuss housing projects and upgrades worth R90 million.

“The Mayor and Municipal Manager will continue to meet with any community group,” he said.

87 out of 400 structures removed

More shack removals were carried out on Monday when people went to work, leaving their shacks empty, and the backlash led to people throwing stones and the police firing rubber bullets.

There were also reports of looting from some shops in the Kayamandi area, which is a part of Stellenbosch.

The private land owner’s attorney, Ernest van Staden, said that around 87 shacks were removed on Monday out of around 400 structures already built.

He said he had not been notified of any court challenge to the evictions.

He had also been instructed by the landowner to also apply for the removal of people in the already occupied shacks.

This matter is expected to be heard on August 21.

The scene of land invasion in Stellenbosch (Christina Pitt, News24)

‘No need to wait for public hearings to end’

Police spokesperson Lieutenant Colonel Andre Traut said 10 people were arrested for alleged public violence on Monday night. They were released on a warning to appear in the Stellenbosch Magistrate’s Court on Wednesday.

The ANC Youth League in the province issued a statement saying the government should not wait for the conclusion of the hearings the Joint Constitutional Review Committee is conducting on the proposed amendment of section 25 of the Constitution.

“While the illegal occupation of vacant pockets of land in the province is not the solution, we understand the grievances and anger of land-hungry masses of our people who are in need of land for dignity and survival,” said a joint statement.

The scene of land invasion in Stellenbosch (Christina Pitt, News24)

“We call on the national government to use its power to expropriate underutilised land in our province and use it to build houses for our people. The government does not need to wait for the public hearings to expropriate land where owners illegally got it in the colonial era and cannot produce proof of ownership.

“The government should also target buildings with absent owners in the urban areas and convert them to low-cost housing.”

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