Head of Green Party versus four families in court

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Noordhoek eviction case highlights complex land issues

Photo of father and daughter
Geraldine Sampson, with her father Freddy, shows the house on Noordhoek Farm where she was born. Photo: Tariro Washinyira
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Four families who have lived at De Villiers farm in Noordhoek since the 1950s are fighting against being evicted by the owner, Judy Sole.

The families have appealed an eviction order that was granted in Simon’s Town Magistrate court on 17 August under the Prevention of Illegal Eviction Act (PIE). The families argued that the zoning of the property is covered by Extension of Security of Tenure (ESTA), which deals with evictions on agricultural land, and that PIE doesn’t apply.

Sole is the owner of the Monkey Valley Beach Nature Resort and head of the Green Party of South Africa. She bought the 1.45 hectares of land for over R3.1 million in 2007. Sole applied to evict the residents in the interim but the court denied this until the appeal is heard. The appeal is expected to be heard in the Western Cape High Court next week.

Katherine Liell Cock, one of the evictees, wrote in a court affidavit: “Given the current zoning of the property as rural I believe it is covered by ESTA. As a result PIE [does] not apply to an eviction application …” Cock also said Sole never offered alternative accommodation.

Since 1996 Cock had been conducting her business as a riding teacher and horse trainer on the property with the consent of the farmer, Japie De Villiers who was well known to her and her family since 1980. She resides on the property with Richard Fred August and his child.

In the court papers, Sole noted that Cock agreed to leave provided Sole give her R50,000 “which would cover her rent in a flat for about a year.” Sole added that while she looked into raising this money, she had given Cock R5,000 to move her horses to another farm.

Last year GroundUp spoke to some of the families staying on the farm. Some live in shacks because the old houses have collapsed. The families are emphatic that they have the right to continue living on the land. They said the farm used to have a nursery and produce pigs.

Walter Sampson, 53, the eldest of the group had a stroke. He can’t walk. He also lost an eye in an accident. He said he and his brother Freddy (47) were born on the farm. Freddy sells firewood on the farm for a living.

“The farmer, whom my parents worked for died in 2004. There was no written contract between my father and the farmer but the farm belongs to us. Now Sole says we should leave. My wish is to die here on the farm,” said Sampson.

The court papers contain a letter apparently written by De Villiers in 1948 which Sampson had shown to Sole as proof that he had permission to live on the farm. Sole however disputes that the letter provides sufficient reason for his continued residence.

Marilyn Morkel, one of the farm occupiers, said the farm was bequeathed to Brenda Poole who sold it on auction to Sole. She claims the auction terms stipulated that “You buy the land with the occupiers. If you want them off the property you must be able to provide houses for them.”

“Sole never consulted with us,” said Morkel. “She never offered any place to stay until now when the eviction papers came. In August in court in Simon’s Town we were told Sole has the right to evict us. The Magistrate never listened to our side of the story. We do not understand why it didn’t go to [the Cape High Court] like other eviction cases.”

Sole told GroundUp: “This fatally flawed legal argument they refer to is them trying to make use of ESTA to stay forever for free. ESTA was brought in to allow farmworkers not to be thrown off a property. ESTA does not extend to the children of the farmworkers and these are the children. ESTA cannot be used unless there is consent from an owner. De Villiers’ will specifically denies consent. He is the owner who was there all the time. Even Brenda Poole told me she had started the groundwork for evictions,” said Sole.

She further said: “ESTA also requires that the land be zoned agricultural. This property is zoned rural.” She said the magistrate clearly refuted all the points the residents made.

Sole said, “Samuel Constant, Kathy Liell Cock, Marilyn Morkel and Walter Sampson and their households have had free accommodation and run their businesses from my property for the nearly 13 years since the old man died. … They have lived there without paying for anything at all for nearly eleven years because I did not have the money to get legal opinion or afford to buy them out.”

Sole said she could only do something about her dilemma when an expert she knew helped her. “He was shocked that they had all been allowed to stay there without paying anything for so long and he could see what a quandary I was in.”

“I have for almost eleven years had to carry all the costs and pay for the property on average R30,000 per month. The whole project was meant to pay for itself with rental from the maintained houses, organic food from the garden, an ecoschool and a global warming solution centre.” Sole described how the financial losses on the farm had affected her current business and staff.

Sole added that had the residents moved out, she could have improved the houses and rented them. “The project would have paid for itself. I would then have been in a better position to help them in the first months of them moving out. In addition, my business would have been on a far sounder footing and this would positively have affected the staff.”

“They are running businesses from my property, renting out rooms in my houses,” she said.

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TOPICS:  Housing